Hollow 2012 is a subtle yet startling work by Anish Kapoor, one of the world’s most renowned artists. It hangs on the wall like a traditional painting and, at first, the intensity of the colour attracts our attention. But the experience of the work changes dramatically as we navigate it. From the side a floating, semi-circular form emerges from the wall; when approached frontally, the purity and intensity of the colour seem to continue to infinity. As noted in a statement for the work, distinctions between two and three dimensions collapse, as Kapoor elides the space ‘between perception and experience. The viewer is drawn into a meditative world.
Kapoor’s sculptures have been compared to the masters of monochrome painting, from Kazimir Malevich to Barnett Newman, Ellsworth Kelly and Yves Klein. Colour, for Kapoor, is not an end in itself but a condition. Red, as he observed in 2012 in a lecture at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, is our earlier memory and a colour that is fundamentally human; it makes a black that is blacker than black because it has ‘graver psychological reality’. By reinterpreting the visual effects of colour through an exploration of two and three dimensions, Hollow crosses the boundary between sculpture and painting.
When first shown at Lisson Gallery in London in 2012, Hollow was juxtaposed with other hemispherical works in electric and turquoise blue, apple green, buttercup yellow and royal purple. Some were mounted frontally, one upturned like a vessel, another tilted downward like a hood. The interior of these new sculptures is a luminous paint, which the artist likens to watercolour, its many tiny particles causing the surfaces to resonate. The convex surface, on the other hand, is matt, neutral and off-white, the equivalent of the wall.
Since the mid 1970s, Kapoor has broadened the scope and language of sculpture through his exploration of scale, material and the concept of the void. The play between surface and depth is a recurring theme. He divides his oeuvre into a series of ‘languages’: pigment, wax, mirror and void. In earlier void sculptures, developed from the late 1980s, he uses matt pigments or highly polished stainless steel, which have quite different effects. Unlike the mirrored void works, which urge a direct and immediate interaction with the viewer through reflection, the matt surface of Hollow creates a gentle and abstract ambience, the anticipation of something to emerge. The viewer starts by questioning how the work is made but soon graduates to asking why.
The idea of the void reappears throughout Kapoor’s career. Traditional sculpture emphasises positive form but, by concentrating on non-form, the artist aims to create a new type of sculpture. He describes his void works as non-objects, entities that at once empty out all content. Part of the mystery of Hollow depends on its lighting. The floating effect is a result of the invisibility of the work’s point of contact with the wall. From a distance, the rim disappears. This illusion, like the production of the work, is executed meticulously. In his pursuit of the sublime and the spiritual, Kapoor delivers works rendered with such elegance and simplicity as to challenge expectations of what art can do.
Lucina Ward Curator, and Chiei Ishida Intern, International Painting and Sculpture
in artonview, issue 75, Spring 2013