Artworks that resemble the intimate recesses of the human bodies grow from the walls of the Lisson Gallery, in an exhibition that both disgusts and compels.
Born in Bombay in 1954, Kapoor is one of the forerunners of British abstract sculpture and has been awarded both the Turner Prize (1991) and a Knighthood for services to the Visual Arts (2013).
Kapoor’s new show at the Lisson is as gruesome as it is beautiful. Dense undulating landscapes of thick reddish silicone are personified to resemble imagined bodily matter, smeared upon the walls.
The first work in the main gallery “Internal Objects in Three Parts” is a floor-to-ceiling triptych that is spread over three walls of the room. Large in height, width, and depth, these paintings are large enough to encompass real human bodies, a feeling that is increased by the imagined faces pushing their way through the paint in a haunting case of pareidolia.
These works seem to contain the whole spectrum of reds, offset against a brilliant white that raises itself to the surface occasionally. The sinewy red silicone resembles all kinds of bodily matter, including muscles, veins, and blood. Occasional bursts of yellow suggest fat, and thin black layers give the work the appearance of charred flesh.
The work is incredibly inviting to the touch (I did, I apologise Anish), and it is as spongy and firm as one would imagine. It is impossible when viewing these works to avoid imagining them as inside your own body, as part of yourself.
Like expectorated mounds of blood upon white tissue, or coagulated clumps on dirty bandages, the work is almost sickening. Despite this, it is impossible to look away. One is transported to the very depths of hell, with its volcanous landscape and inescapable voids. I stood transfixed below the first painting until I felt the compulsion to walk straight into it, and at that point I had to tear myself away.
These works, a new direction for Kapoor, bridge the gap between his smooth, shiny works (Cloud Gate - 2006), and his matte, colourful works (Mother as Mountain - 1985). Both the shiny and the matte appear together in these works, fighting for prominence.
As well as the visceral bloodlike paintings, Kapoor has included two prostrate pink onyx sculptures that at the same time resemble both orifices and protrusions. The smoothness of the surface and the sugary-pink hues are reminiscent of tongues and vulvas, and contrast brilliantly against the darker landscapes of the paintings.
As well as these there are a few polished reflective works that don’t seem to sit so well with the intentionally rough and perfectly flawed pieces, something that I’m sure Kapoor has intended, as displacement is something that he does very well. The contrast between these works and his paintings seems to exemplify and exaggerate the qualities of each. The mirrored pieces make the paintings all the more textured, and the paintings make these works all the more flawless. There is still a bodily quality to the mirrored pieces, one of which resembles a gold mouth, or another vulva, gilded and hung in the corner.
The main body of the work (excuse the pun) is the paintings, and it is these that are the most alluring. One could get lost for hours in amongst these visceral topological maps of the internal human landscape. These artworks represent what is in all of us, and in this they are universal. What are we all but bags of gore.
As with all great works by Anish Kapoor, you are transported from the gallery into a personal space for contemplation. You lose yourself in his epic works and are able to ponder quietly for a few minutes, free from all of your real-world worries. Worries like death, disease, and coughing up blood.
All images via © Lisson Gallery website
The show runs until the 9th of May 2015
Lisson Gallery 52-54 Bell Street, London NW1 5DA