"The studio is a place where meaning is excavated- it is brought out of a seemingly senseless process. A process of play. Abstract art seeks to operate under the skin, to deliver its meanings surreptitiously"
Fibreglass and pigment
Yellow is a monumental and arresting work. Our entire field of vision is taken up with the singular experience of colour. Here Anish Kapoor uses colour as an autonomous tool: it embraces and subverts form. A great gaping belly recedes deep into the wall. As we look at it we struggle to understand what we see. We are no longer certain about what we think we know is convex and what we make out to be concave. The sheer scale of the work and its monochrome state fills our view. Kapoor has a deep interest in the use of varying tones of a single colour. You can see him explore its sculptural and metaphysical possibilities again and again in his work. Let’s hear the artist’s thoughts about the way he works with colour:
...the idea that in monochrome there is no composition, there is only a kind of ‘witness’. We want to make colour such that it is a condition so absolute and complete that it’s rather like water is wet. Yellow should be yellow or red should be red. There, total. What that does, or what that can do (as we know from Barnett Newman, who was a great hero of mine...) is that it can change time. That something happens in that process that seems to be ‘other’. That seems to say this is a real time of dreaming; it’s not just a static. In other words, something else is happening.
As we look at this work the boundaries are blurred between what we know and what we perceive. We know this is a finite space but we are also aware of its mysterious qualities. It seems to go deeper and stretch beyond its sculptural confines. How does Anish Kapoor create this impression?
The expansiveness of time and space are qualities that fascinate Kapoor. We can experience this in Yellow as well as other works, such as My Body Your Body, from 1993. Kapoor blurs the space between the object and the subject. With Yellow, our eyes begin to operate in a similar way: - they pull in and push out. We find we are as drawn to the overwhelming strength of the colour as much as to the void at the centre of the work. Anish Kapoor describes this phenomenon clearly:
... It’s that phenomenological shift that brings uncertainty, that asks the question about what it is that we’re looking at. ... I hope that somewhere in that is a moment of poetry.
To get to the quality of finish we see in this work the sculpture is meticulously moulded and smoothed down before the yellow pigment can start to be applied. The surface appears flawless, so that we are no longer able to identify the hand of the maker, or the material from which it is made. This level of perfection, the intensity of the yellows, and the vast void at the centre of the work, all draw us in. They impel us to ask questions. It is a work that demands our total engagement
White Sand, Red Millet, Many Flowers, 1982
Mixed media and pigment
These vivid pigment objects are drawn from one of Anish Kapoor’s earliest sculptural series. Completed between 1979 and 1984, they combine the use of primary colours with geometric forms. It is a sculptural language that the artist has returned to over the course of his career. They also introduce us to another element, which is at the core of Kapoor’s work - each piece is individually different from the next, yet they all belong to a group or series.
These works came about following a short trip Kapoor made to India in 1979, when he began to use powdered pigment in his three-dimensional works.
I wondered somewhere along the way whether one could make sculpture out of colour. And what interested me was the sense that the material seemed to contradict itself, that this stuff - pigment - is physical. It has a physical ...’stuffness’, which I like, and yet it’s... kind of unusual in that it isn’t really there...or points to the possibility that it isn’t there. ... I began to feel that what I wanted to do was deal with absolute colour. Colour as a condition rather than colour as a tool in a compositional form.
These works introduce us to a rich palette of colours that Kapoor has used repeatedly - deep blues, bold reds and brilliant yellows.
At the time he produced these objects, Anish Kapoor was already identified as being part of the internationally heralded ‘New British Sculpture’ - along with other young artists such as Richard Deacon, Tony Cragg, Alison Wilding, Bill Woodrow and Shirazeh Houshiary.
... Just to put it into a historical perspective, this is... when the art world was opening up to the possibility of a new kind of figuration... and I was ... with a group of colleagues -and we were all, if you like, exploring the three-dimensional form.
Kapoor was still at art school in London when he came to believe that the illusory was more poetically truthful than the real. It is a notion that continues in his working practice to this day. How does this apply to these pigment works?
One of the things that interests me about these objects ... is that they are partial, that they are rather like icebergs, hidden under the ground. ... The plane of the pigment reveals a part of the object. The rest of them isn’t there. That’s perhaps a kind of fiction, in a sense, but then fiction, it seems to me, is what it’s all about. The other idea that seems to me to be important that comes out of them is another fiction: that they are auto-generated, that they make themselves; that they weren’t ‘made’, that they ‘arrived’
These objects give the appearance of being both natural and abstract in their form. They seem to grow through the museum’s floor and walls. While we know the pieces are static, we can be forgiven for believing that they have burst through the architecture, scattering powdery pigment as they forced their way out.
The intricate way in which the pigment has been applied seems to remove any trace of the artist’s hand. The objects reveal nothing of the artist or the artistic process that was used to create them. This is of primary importance to Kapoor.
"Art is educational, provocative, and enlightening, even if it is not understood at first. The creative confusion itself stimulates curiosity and development and leads to the truth and to tolerance."
Snow Crab Crystal Glut
Yellow Moby Glut (=Moby for Moby Dick)
Glut: Oversupply, or, in business, a market situation where the supply of a good o service far exceeds its demand, usually resulting in a substantial fall in its price.
Assemblage: A sculptural composition consisting of an arrangement of miscellaneous objects or found materials
...The series is characterized by the use of materials gathered at junkyards, such as mattress frames, blinds and bicycles, street detritus such as traffic and gasoline signs.
Rauschenberg used these metal assemblages to express his criticism of the economic situation in his home state of Texas, which at the time was suffering a recession due to a surplus (or glut) of oil on the market.
...Many of the Gluts are completely or very loosely manipulated combinations of objects. Sometimes the objects are simply left as found; sometimes they're connected with something as simple as a rope
...Rauschenberg's artwork frequently features words, phrases, or numbers altered by removing from their original context or by other artistic means (cutting, painting or folding) often in witty ways. Many of the words emblazoned on the Gluts are directionals -arrows, instructions, numbers, or imperatives- that indicate the object's former functions as traffic, street or gas station signs
....In the Gluts, the metal found objects retain their original shapes enough to suggest their former lives or functions. Rauschenberg insisted: "whatever material I use remains true to itself"
...These sculptures continued his effort to work within the gap between art and life, or to break down the distinctions between the two.