Anish Kapoor - A Brief Study

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					Anish Kapoor – a brief study of some of his works

analytical short essay by Daniel Cassar

Anish Kapoor recently stated, in an interview question set to him regarding one of his works, that
“Sculpture, as an art, is very manipulative. And I am not against illusion, manipulation... Like Here
for Alba suggests you have a little bit more around the back, but not really. You need to stand in
front of it. It sort of aligns your body and it’s the aligning of the body that is the part of the process.
It’s a kind of religious function.”1 The work he was referring to is Here For Alba, a tall and
relatively large, hollow, concave sculpture that allows a person to enter it and experience visual
illusions through mirror induced stimuli. The plain exterior of the structure seems to blend
seamlessly with the surrounding environment, making the colourful and vividly red interior even
more inviting and alluring by contrast. In fact, even at first glance, the smooth and lighted space
inside the sculpture is very beckoning and goes a long way in provoking interest as to what is
actually inside.

                                               Here For Alba
                                        ed-sculptor-anish-kapoor/ )

The contours of the sculpture might induce a sense of solitude in anyone who is inside it, cut off
from the rest of the world and faced only with images that originate from within the structure itself.
At the same time, it could present itself as a space for reflection and thought, free from external
distractions and interruptions. Perhaps this, coupled with the abstract resemblance of the shape of
the sculpture to the human body, could relate to the quasi-religious and allegorical overtones
mentioned by Kapoor. As a matter of fact, visitors are invited to align themselves, to achieve
symmetrical harmony, with the art.2 This is a quaint idea, although it may well be lost on the visitor
due to the possibly overwhelming dimensions of the artwork.

On a more sensory level, the curvatures of the mirror inside the sculpture give the impression that
the area behind the viewer is much larger than the one in front, when in reality, no such imbalance
exists. This phenomenon occurs due to the unevenness of the mirror surface, which causes light
hitting it to bounce off and disperse in all 'random' directions, rather than uniformly reflecting the
1 Sumati Mehrishi. (2010). Express News Service (
2 Sumati Mehrishi. (2010). Hindustan Times, 03/12/10. (
scene that is in front of it. As fascinating as it is believable, such an illusion is one of the reasons
why art is often used to represent 'alternate realities', which seem to defy what is deemed as being
normal. It can, as Kapoor said, trick and challenge the mind of whoever is perceiving it to question
the state of his current reality due to conflicting sensory perceptions, manipulating the mind into
perceiving an environment that is not actually in that state.
Art is ultimately a channel for the artist to give a physical body to expression, inspiration and
thoughts. Another interesting quote from Kapoor goes, “I think it’s my role as an artist to bring to
expression, it’s not my role to be expressive. I’ve got nothing particular to say, I don’t have any
message to give anyone. But it is my role to bring to expression, let’s say, to define means that allow
phenomenological and other perceptions which one might use, one might work with, and then move
towards a poetic existence.” Perhaps an appropriate example of such artistic mantra would be
Turning The World Inside Out, a solid, elliptical, reflective and shiny steel structure, of relatively
small size (lower in height than the average person). On the top side of the structure there is a
sizeable, bowl-like indentation that is depressed towards the centre. The only colours seen apart
from the chrome-like exterior, are those being reflected from the world around.

                            World Turned Inside Out (at the Roll Stones site)

In a review by George Hummer3, the artwork is described as being steeped in symbolism, with
parallelisms drawn to the spiritual concepts of cosmic balance and mechanism found in Hinduism.
The way it is shaped allows for a large sense of space and depth to be perceived in the reflections,
adding an almost infinite dimension which seems to stretch out into infinity, with Hummer
commenting on how it seems to amplify the intensity and clarity of the scenery that it reflects.
These spiritual overtones also resonated on a personal level. The shiny, orb-like structure seems to
suggest an energy source that emanates from within and radiates into the outside world. The depth
of field conveyed seems to mimic the infinity of the universe, the boundless realms of space. The
artwork itself is bound by defined and visible borders, yet everything about it seems to suggest a
lack of spacial restriction. After all, the sphere (coming from the circle) has always been considered
as being the 'perfect shape', having no beginning nor end. Physically, this sense of wide, infinite
horizons and field of vision yields an interesting fish-eye lens effect in the sculpture, as evidenced
by the image above. Another interesting contrast that the artwork engages in is observed in a

3 George Hummer. Anish Kapoor At The Rollright Stones. (
description of the work on ArtFund4, which comments on how the title seems to suggest chaos and
confusion, yet the aura given off is one of serenity and peace. There are no sharp edges or vertices
which might give more of a 'threatening' vibe, but rather there is a tranquil ambience about the
whole thing, with Hummer even suggesting a parallelism between this concept of calm stillness and
Buddhist culture.

Finally, it is worthy to note that the sculpture was placed, for some time, at the Rollright Stone site
in Oxfordshire, England, which is where the above photo was taken, and which is also the location
at which the aforementioned review was written. Hummer observes that this steel egg-like creation,
contrary to what might be expected, blends into the surrounding historical and ancient site and does
not appear to be out of place at all, creating a sort of portal between the past and the present and
completing the loop, the cycle of time. It exists, not harming anyone, simply reflecting the world
around it and putting it into a new (and perhaps more ethereal) perspective. Not everybody was in
accordance with these views, with some visitors complaining about the structure being an eyesore
and totally out of place. Responding to these social concerns, Hummer says, on a more
anthropological level, that “the modern and the ancient have the same intention, and will bring new
audiences to appreciate the beauty of both”. Art might unify some and cause divide between others,
but what is certain is that, as evidenced in both of these works, it will always stir emotions and
evoke feelings and reflections in the beholder.

© 2011 Daniel Cassar


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Description: A short essay analysing some of contemporary artist Anish Kapoor's works, with special attention given to the shapes, forms, colours and reflective surfaces used