March 2013

Arts & Letters

Anish Kapoor

By Patrick Hartigan
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Anish Kapoor has built a career out of exceptionally engineered, slick-looking objects – gleaming dishes, gaping voids and monumental installations. While his work seems to descend directly from the tradition of 1960s Minimalism – the viewer’s physical presence being a requirement for the completion of each work – its wonder-inducing scale points more at German Romanticism: awe for adults, fun for the kids. The reference here is a surprisingly traditional one: the dazzling 19th-century landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich, painted to inspire amazement, with a splendour more vivid than reality’s.

Much of the work in Anish Kapoor strains the seams of the MCA. Kapoor’s works bulge: Memory (2008) fills most of the room it is installed in, to striking emotional effect, while When I am Pregnant (1992) breaks with the basic assumption that museums have flat walls. A museum, experienced in this way, can feel like an amusement park: approachable, but the rides are over in a flash.

On first viewing, My Red Homeland (2003), a work that sits alone in a room, seems to offer something different, perhaps richer and less fun than the other works, neither sucking us into an abyss nor making us vertiginously aware of our surroundings. It is more visceral than the others, with its arm rotating through thick, blood-pigmented wax. But one soon becomes aware of being in the presence of an elaborate and seductive fabrication, for the ready-piled wax isn’t moving as it seems. This leaves one with the feeling of having worked out the secret behind the illusion.

Although Kapoor pursues the big existential questions in his work, materiality takes precedence, as it does for many of his blockbuster contemporaries. In his case, Kapoor engages the imagination in a way that feels close to that of a didactic science exhibit – one designed to elicit a very particular moment of astonishment. The distortions reflected in Sky Mirror (2006) – a giant dish-like mirror sitting out the front of the MCA – bring to mind Roland Barthes on the work of Harold D Edgerton, the man who photographed, among other such things, the explosion of a drop of milk (to the millionth of a second): “I am too much of a phenomenologist to like anything but appearances to my own measure.”

Kapoor’s works overwhelm – not only the spectators who stand astounded and entertained before the at times enormous, at times deceptively simple installations and objects, but the very museums they are presented in. This is certainly their power.

Patrick Hartigan
Patrick Hartigan is a Sydney-based artist.

Anish Kapoor, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Until 1 April
Cover: March 2013

March 2013

From the front page

Trump disorder

Our foreign policy needs to catch up to these unstable times

Image of Angélique Kidjo

Angélique Kidjo reinvents Talking Heads’ ‘Remain in Light’

This remake of the 1980 classic insists on the connections between musical traditions

Image of Moreno Giovannoni’s ‘The Fireflies of Autumn’

‘The Fireflies of Autumn’: a bittersweet take on the Tuscan idyll

Moreno Giovannoni’s debut collection examines dislocation in a way rarely seen

Illustration

Crafting a ceramic habitat for a handfish

Hobart artist Jane Bamford is helping a critically endangered fish to spawn


In This Issue

‘Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott’ by David Marr, Black Inc, 256pp; $19.95

Political Animal

The Making of Tony Abbott

Quarterly Essay 49, ‘Not Dead Yet: Labor's Post-Left Future’ by Mark Latham, Black Inc, 101pp; $19.95

The Rise of the New Right

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Pemulwuy & Black Caesar

© Karen Kasmauski / National Geographic Stock

Fat City: What can stop obesity?


More in Arts & Letters

Image of Ronan Farrow

The end of American diplomacy: Ronan Farrow’s ‘War on Peace’

The Pulitzer Prize winner explains how the State Department’s problems started long before Trump

Image of Australian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale

Two worlds at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale

The consumption of space, land and habitat is Australia’s focus at the world’s pre-eminent architecture event

Still from Brothers’ Nest

Dirty work in Clayton Jacobson’s ‘Brothers’ Nest’

The filmmakers behind ‘Kenny’ take a darker turn

Image of Angélique Kidjo

Angélique Kidjo reinvents Talking Heads’ ‘Remain in Light’

This remake of the 1980 classic insists on the connections between musical traditions


More in Noted

Cover of The Lebs

‘The Lebs’ by Michael Mohammed Ahmad

A fresh perspective on Muslim youth in Sydney’s west

Cover of A Sand Archive

‘A Sand Archive’ by Gregory Day

Day grasps landscape as an intimate living thing

‘The Choke’ by Sofie Laguna

Allen & Unwin; $32.99

Cover of Anything Is Possible

‘Anything Is Possible’ by Elizabeth Strout

Viking; $29.99


Read on

Image of Moreno Giovannoni’s ‘The Fireflies of Autumn’

‘The Fireflies of Autumn’: a bittersweet take on the Tuscan idyll

Moreno Giovannoni’s debut collection examines dislocation in a way rarely seen

Image of Pauline Hanson, Mark Latham and David Leyonhjelm

The Three Stooges

Hanson, Latham and Leyonhjelm are reminiscent of an irritating comedy act

Image from ‘Counterpart’

Duals duel in ‘Counterpart’

J.K. Simmons goes through the looking glass in this science-fiction espionage series

Image of senator David Leyonhjelm

David Leyonhjelm: libertarian, or just vicious?

The movement for freedom and equality has a dubious record on gender


×
×