Anish Kapoor 'I want to write a grand opera...'
'... and deal with the big human issues.' But, he tells us, 'One would kid oneself to believe one could do all that'
Earlier this week we caught up with Anish Kapoor as he opened a show of new work at the Lisson Gallery. While we were there we were intrigued to hear him talk about his return, after so many years, to painting. He began almost falteringly, as if he was unsure of what he was about to say - though we still can't be sure he wasn't teasing us. In the flesh he's way more playful than his work might suggest, a good reminder, if one was ever needed that the art is not the artist. Anyway, this is what he said.
“Where to start? What am I to say? OK, briefly… I’ve made paintings for a long time in one way or another and I’m not really interested in expression. So what then am I doing? These are made first of all with silicon which is the same stuff which is used to make breast implants and body parts. And it has a particular quality as you can see: it’s visceral it takes colour amazingly and as a material it allows incident. So I’m really interested in the layering of the object as a series of processes. But really I want to get away from the hand, I want this object to be here as if a real thing; as if a phenomena; as if altogether all at once a self-evident truth, if you like.
"So I’ve had a long engagement with painting - even though I’m supposedly a sculptor. And making sculpture has led me often to the idea that objects are not as described. They’re not just objects. Material things often have immaterial parallels whether they are poetic or phenomenological or, in some senses, even actual."
As we reported a couple of days ago, the prevailing view of the new work on show at the Lisson Gallery is that it's somehow inspired by the brutality of the current age, a view Kapoor was neither keen to discourage or encourage but was keen to place in perspective.
“It’s interesting that we live in times in which, you know, we recognize that multiple perspectives is what makes us modern human beings - especially in a post Freudian sense. But we also live in a time when there are these harsh singular perspectives. All extremism points to singular perspectives. And that confuses us. How do we deal with both of those things? It’s very hard for us. So we try to maintain multiple perspectives as artists, as human beings!"
More prosaically, he revealed that the new paintings (that you can see here) were made “partially upright, partially lying down - it’s just easier to do when they’re on the ground.” He said he thinks of them “as vertical things” that “need to have” a sense of “falling”. “The gravity needs to pull downwards, so I do spend a good deal of effort to carry on making them vertically. But what is important about them is that they have interior spaces.”
As Kapoor spoke, he pointed into the holes in the thick material attached to the canvas. Attempting to put his new work into context, he said that with the show he was “pointing at two different ways of viewing a kind of interiority." He told us that while he dreamed of writing “a grand opera” and that he wanted “to deal with all the big human issues, one would kid oneself to believe one could do all that.”
Instead, he wanted to “allow space in the work that didn’t exclude the possibilities of death, of joy, and beauty and all those things. But to go about them and say I’m making a work about joy or death - it’s too banal. You just don’t get that. So I think having confidence enough in the process to say that there is inner psychic matter that will come to be in the work if one can let it be in the work. And I think that has to in the end be a measure of its quality. How else can I put it?”
Kapoor spoke briefly about some of his past shows, particularly his celebrated 2012 exhibition at the Royal Academy which, in part, saw him set a huge lump of wax in motion through the galleries on tracks, passing through doorways which ‘carved’ it into a particular shape.
“That was a process that gave a particular result. Obviously I chose the red wax very carefully. Similarly here, these things are big enough gestures (so) I hope to get away from the idea of a particular authorship. They’re not particularly about me, obviously they are, but there’s that strange tension. So that’s one thing. The other is beauty and ugly. I think there’s a problematic thing here: are they just gross or is there something kind of beautiful about them at the same time and what does that say?”
To find out for yourself, go along to the Lisson Gallery where the show continues until May 9. If you can't make it, treat yourself to the next best thing, a copy of our beautiful Anish Kapoor monograph which you'll find here.