Theatre of the Glutinous

Various supersized reflective creations, unusual installations and jumbo sculptures are featured in a retrospective exhibit of Indian born artist Anish Kapoor which opens this week at London’s Royal Academy of Arts. A highlight is a sculpture of a vintage cannon called ”Shooting Into The Corner” that fires bursts of 20 lb. slugs of solid crimson paint, a blood red wax , that shatters and splashes into the  the ceiling and walls at twenty minute intervals.

Shooting Into The Corner, Kapoor

Shooting Into The Corner, Kapoor



Attention grabbing marketing technique, almost vaudevillian entertainment of the circus carnival variety. One expects the worlds smallest woman or strange creatures in glass jars to compete for the viewers attention with Kapoor’s art. Perhaps another cannon, a projectile of a stuntman over the Thames to commemorate the War of the Roses or the introduction of toilet paper into the British Isles would also be on the bill. Or, Perhaps the world’s strongest man pulling the cannon around the gallery with his teeth.

There is attraction and repulsion at work , a type of joyousness mingled with the horrible. The problem is when these opposing forces are calculated, planned and lack spontaneity resulting in pieces lacking unity and existing in an autonomous fashion. Poetically, it could be termed a lack of melody . And in part, its the frivolity and sensationalism for its own sake that detracts from an artist who is gifted but readily succumbs to his own vanity. Its a form of installation art where the Gallery serves as amusement centre.





There is also a 30 tonne , 30 foot long paint train,more resembling a loaf, composed of the same crimson paint used in the cannon. Called ”Svayambh”, it runs slowly back and forth through five galleries defecating its excess as it pleases or acting as symbolic illusion for penetration.

 ”… the other end, it presents us with an orifice, a yawning gloom in which lurks who-knows-what. It’s like something out of Jules Verne, with an interstellar sex drive….The daftness of some of Kapoor’s art is a good counterbalance to the more ponderous pretensions the artist has always been prey to. In fact, it is the wrestling between these two tendencies that produces his strongest work. ”.



”Standing up close to the train, as it pushes through an arch, I feel like a voyeur, sniffing the ordure in a novel by De Sade. As with the cannon, the associations are both phallic and fecal; the train reams the building. But it also creates its own mess, as it takes its slow, inexorable journey. I thought of Magritte’s steam train, emerging from the fireplace in a quiet dining room in the artist’s 1938 painting Time Transfixed. Kapoor’s train is bizarre although not nearly so surreal (we are used to seeing weird things in art galleries, including trains, and certainly tons of paint). But his paint-bombing bombardment and this train are generative, fecund gestures, as well as scatalogical. They succeed by excess, and by their theatrical use of inchoate, base material.”

Anish Kapoor, Memory, 2008

Anish Kapoor, Memory, 2008



There is a natural drama in sculpture between form and the formless, a narrative ebbing back and forth between an articulation of the uncomfortable  and with the known and identifiable. Kapoor is an outstanding talent with conceptual brilliance However, some of the blatant sexual symbolism in the work, ( holes, protuberances ) are too vulgar and crude to be taken seriously. The enigma loses its mystery and the elements of the metaphysical descend from the mythical to common and banal.

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