Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | October 23, 2012

The Idolator: Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor , Bean Cloud Gate, Stainless Steel

Obviously one can ask who is an Idolater? And if this is about a contemporary artist it becomes quite confusing. I am speaking here about Anish Kapor’s sacred discourse of idolization. I am asking here about his conception of idolization? Whether he has known how an eidolon or idol-Image becomes a subject of idolization? He must have known it, either discourse of idolization would be impossible. He must have been aware of  the originary image and its coming into being; its appearing in to a concrete form. Before the process of Idolization takes place, he must have the Eidolon in advance which is said to be the body of God (Idolater refers to it).  We will try to know on the same route, why idol maker is an idolater?  But before that let us ask How eidolon comes to him? How the very originary image visits him? What is the secret discourse behind the visitation?

Many sculptors directly relate it to contemplation similar to spiritual meditation when they would have some apparition, some basic idea of the image. Auguste Rodin would say, “Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and which divines the spirit of which nature herself is animated.” In contemplation nature reveals, in contemplation nature offers you a gift–he further elaborates, “There are unknown forces in nature; when we give ourselves wholly to her, without reserve, she lends them to us; she shows us these forms, which our watching eyes do not see, which our intelligence does not understand or suspect.” Therefore only in a certain condition, in certain presence of consciousness an artist becomes able to perceive forms or rather nature lends them some form otherwise unseen in the normal state of mind. When a sculptor looks at a form with fascination, a kind of narcissism- he goes beyond the real; he does not see the real form but a form that belongs to the indeterminate realm of fascination. If Constantine Brancusi states  that create like God, he speaks about a certain kind of artist-beings who are capable to raise their consciousness upto the level of god consciousness in whom exist originary forms. Spinoza had this conception.  Brancusi clearly says that originary image always exists in the form of an abstract idea that is translated by craftsmen artist in the idol.

But this abstract image conceived by artist is purest real. He says “The people who call my work ‘abstract’ are imbeciles. What they call ‘abstract’ is in fact the purest realism, the reality of which is not represented by external form but by the idea behind it, the essence of the work.” For many sculptors (I call them Idolaters); the question of orginary form is embarrassing. Anish Kapoor would seem to confuse us with his mysterious remarks about the originary image. He says, “Do you know, much of the work that I’ve made over many years now proposes the idea that for every form there is a kind, there is a kind of counterpoint in non-form. One of the things that I see myself battling with now is not the non-form, because in a way I feel I’ve done some of that, but the form. So what happens when there’s form and no non-form? Where can I go with that?” Anish allocates the process somewhere else. He does not agree completely with Brankusi on the abstractness of the originary image. He is concerned not only about the image but also about its language that he finds in objects itself. His idea of contemplation is somewhat philosophico-theological. He asks, “If there is form and non-form” then how to proceed? Image is already present, language is already in existence; the question is its appropriation in one’s own imagery, one’s own language. He says “One of the currents in the contemporary experience of art is that it points to the experience of the author. That is to say it dwells in the author. It seems to me that there’s another route in which the artist looks for content, which is different from meaning. It may be abstract, but at a deeper level symbolic content is necessarily philosophical and often religious. I think I am attempting to dig away at – without wanting to sound too pompous – the great mystery of being. And that, while it has a route through my psychobiography, it isn’t based in it…….The idea that the object in a sense has a language unto itself, and that its primary purpose in the world isn’t interpretative, it is there as if sitting within its own world of meaning.” Therefore for him its about mystery of his being that he digs away and tries to make it appear in his sculptures through the forms at hand. Form is already given; already it has a language; now artist has to appropriate it according to his own imagination and needs. It is a kind of drawing upon drawing; it is a kind rewriting a language.

Artist in this way does not make sculptures but mythologies at the limit of the matter and on the horizon of the visual language. Anish conception of sculpting is philosophical in its own right. Homi Bhabha remarks about his work that how in a state of transitionality he appropriates the viewing/seeing.” The purpose of Kapoor’s work is not to represent the mediation of light and darkness, or negative and positive space, in a dialectical relationship in which emptiness will travel through the darkening mirror to assume the plenitude of presence. Kapoor stays with the state of transitionality, allowing it the time and space to develop its own affects – anxiety, unease, restlessness – so that viewing becomes part of the process of making the work itself.” There is sacred discourse and there is sacred ceremony of unveiling; one precedes other. Secret of the sacredness of his sculptural discourse lies in the process that always follows the ‘waiting’. One has to be Patient in the discourse; one has to follow its rules marked by its time. It is in the transitionality possibilities are found, one finds an opportunity to create magic; something unthought could make its appearance. There is no subject matter since form itself is a subject, image itself is a subject; it contains an imminent visual language. One is on the threshold of language here. Anish explains his position clearly, artist’s role in this play of language: “Putting aside subject matter is saying that content can arise. It does this seemingly out of formal language, considerations about form, about material, about context. When subject matter is sufficiently out of the way, something else occurs; maybe it is the role of the artist then, as I see it, to pursue this something that one might call content.” It is in the process of idolization that something unknown happens, something sacred paves its way into the forms. Anish lays emphasis on that which is practically important for the sculpture though he does not forget to tell us that it is the immaterial/abstract concept that becomes the concrete image. Elsewhere he states, “I am interested in is the idea of the immaterial becoming an object, which is what’s happening in Ascension, smoke is becoming a column……..I am interested in that part of material, which is not material because it seems to me that equivalent with every history of material, there is a history of immaterial.” For Anish kapoor it is not only a question of idea and its perception but of its stretch up to the limit of material. At this point of sculptural discourse the unthinkable, the impossible, the unbearable body of image is to be summoned. In a conversation with an interviewer he speaks about perception and sculpting, he says”….Do you know there’s a wonderful Christian idea in which Thomas stretches his hands out to try to touch Christ’s wound and Christ says ‘Noli me tangere’ (do not touch me). What your eyes see your hands will always try to affirm. Much of dealing with the non-material is about this confusion between the hand and the eye, the ear and the eye, when the thing that you look at is uncertain, your body demands a kind of readjustment, it demands certainty. Something happens to where you are, to space; time changes. Time, I think, becomes slower. The mystical truth of art is time.” Something is untouchable, mystical and as a sculptor its artistic habit to show a ‘this’ and to be convincing (ourselves) that this ‘this’ herewith, Is that which neither one can see nor touch, neither here nor elsewhere. Untouchable body of the image haunts. This is what is at stake; this is where the relationship with sculptural discourse and time comes. But there is no way out, this is to be touched. But is it possible? Is it possible to touch the body of God? For as soon as it is touched there is violation, there are wounds. But if ‘points of tangency touches’ there is no violation, there is no wounds. Touching without touch is possible then.
He would be more sensitive and concerned with the arrival of the untouchable, how that which is immaterial arrives in the material in a complete sensible form, this is the real matter but still the process is not complete. In him Idea seems to be passing to the limit of the matter where it appears as a complete sensible object. Once the idea/immaterial takes a form as it was conceived, the way he hoped it to appear in the very objecthood of the object; it starts demanding another horizon. Its alive, it wants its world, it wants breath, it wants air; it wants to proclaim its presence. Only in relation to space and time it’s real existence possible. Sculpture’s real unveiling; its real presencing takes place in the space. Space is what devours us, concerning object’s objecthood we can say it always exist in relation to space; without it its existence is not possible. Sculptor’s greatness lies in the fact that how beautifully he carves space through his sculpture, how he suspends time when the spectator encounter his sculpture. Anish works suspends your time and your feeling of space; it becomes a kind of blackhole for the spectator. Once you encounter his sculpture it eats your ego. His sculptures in this sense are philosophico-theological. Anish is an Idolater in this sense only because he knows the art of idolization, he knows how to touch the body of God. He is a perfect craftsmen, a perfect image maker-IDOLATOR.

 note: I wrote this article as blog post on Anish Kapoor ( Indian born British Artist ) in January during his retrospective exhibition in Delhi NGMA.  It was like exhibition review initially but later I translated it into an article.  I posted it on blog but later removed and posted on website where thousands have read it. I thought let me re-post it on its original source- blog.


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