exhibition review: ‘anish kapoor’ @ the MCA
A larger-than-life circular mirror angled to reflect the clouds above. The aptly-titled Sky Mirror (2006) graces the lawn outside Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), which is currently showing a major exhibition by the artist behind this intriguing work, Anish Kapoor. Provocative yet majestic, Sky Mirror makes a striking appearance in Circular Quay and, as I recently discovered, was just a taste of what the exhibition had in store.
Anish Kapoor is the first major Australian exhibition of the acclaimed Mumbai-born, London-based artist. Brought to our shores thanks to the Sydney International Art Serious, the exhibition presents a selection of key works Kapoor has produced over the past three decades. This marks the period of artistic maturity in his practice, during which time he has become one of the most distinguished contemporary artists in the world.The layout of Anish Kapoor makes use of the recent extension to the MCA’s historic deco-style building. One work, My Red Homeland (2003), is located on the ground floor, with the rest of the exhibition displayed in upstairs galleries. This division, no doubt, emerged from necessity rather than curatorial choice: at 25 metres in diameter, this is a work that demands its own space. I found myself captivated by the red wax sculpture, watching what looks like the needle of a curious vinyl record player sweep ever so slowly around the piece, gradually remoulding the malleable form in the process. Observing other visitors walking around the piece, entranced by this strange form, was perhaps as compelling as the work itself. An effect Kapoor, no doubt, intended the work to produce.
Upstairs, things were even more interesting. I entered a maze of curious mirrors and reflective surfaces, fibreglass voids and surreal wall installations. As a viewer, I felt pulled into a magical yet visceral world where things were not quite what they seemed. This was most noticeable in the several pieces such as My Body Your Body (1993) which literally draw the viewer in. As one approaches My Body Your Body, the centre appears to move and change depending on where you look, and the piece appears to recede into the wall causing a ‘black hole’ effect. Even the material of the work is confusing – it has the appearance of fabric yet is, in fact, fibreglass. Moreover, posing in the form of traditional rectangular wall-hung paintings, these works playfully confront established ideas of art.
As I walked through Anish Kapoor, I couldn’t help thinking there was much more to the exhibition than a serious of striking and mind-boggling sculptural works. It is as though the artist is attempting to unsettle the viewer by creating pieces which are familiar, yet mysterious, visceral and poetic all at once. Although the works featured in exhibition have a magnetic appeal, they are somewhat foreign and inaccessible, raising a number of questions: do we touch them, stand close to them or observe from a distance; where do they lead; why does sound echo when we approach some of them; what do they mean? These questions emerge from a feeling of being disconnected from the real world and immersed in that of Kapoor.
I left Anish Kapoor feeling both awed and perplexed. The sympathetic display allows the works to speak for themselves, with minimal supporting information. If Kapoor is interested in exploring and stimulating ideas ranging from what is real and what is ideal, to how we engage with contemporary art and why we are compelled by the mysterious, the larger-than-life and the unknown, then his work over the past thirty years has achieved this.