Illusion is the word

Sonia Gandhi with the sculptor Photo: Shanker Chakravarty   | Photo Credit: Shanker Chakravarty

He came, he exhibited but did he conquer? With a smile that never left his face, Anish Kapoor, claimed to be the world's iconic public sculptor, certainly did, as he inaugurated his first ever show in India at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). The sty didn't obstruct his charm, instead only ‘humanised' the demigod of art. Otherwise, Louis Vuitton, Lisson Gallery, British Council and even the NGMA had done every bit to make the evening elitist and out-of-bounds for many of us. Congress Chief and Chairperson of the National Advisory Council Sonia Gandhi, who released the catalogue and flagged off the much-hyped show, was given a walk-through by the artist as the rest of us, including artists, gallerists, art critics, art writers, fashion designers and socialites, dug into the snacks on offer.

Conspicuous by their absence were many noteworthy names like Krishen Khanna, A. Ramachandran, Anjolie Ela Menon, Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Manjunath Kamath, Gigi Scaria, etc.

Socialising on the NGMA lawns, “impressive” is how many described Sonia's speech at the podium. Making relevant and informed remarks about Anish's art practice, she mentioned how it evokes wonder and a sense of perception. She also spoke about the lack of public art in the cities, made a reference to his Cloud Gate sculpture, a £14.3m, 100-ton sculpture in Chicago, said to be the most visited public art work in the world, and concluded on a hopeful note “….I hope we may one day see Anish Kapoor's installation in our public space, as well as works by leading Indian artists.” And now we hear that things have started progressing in this direction.

Though based in London since 1973, Anish draws his roots from India for he was born and brought up in Mumbai. As if answering all those who wanted to pose the inevitable one — where does India come in his art — he remarked, “I have internalised and mythologised the country in a very real way. It's deeply powerful and emotional for me to witness one of its (my art's) sources.” It was in his earlier sculptures done in the '80s, for instance in ‘To Reflect an Intimate Part of the Red' in mixed media and pigment which is displayed at the venue, that the Indian connection becomes clearly visible. Drawing inspiration from calligraphy, relief carving and tapestries, several forms in bright red and yellow rise from the ground evoking imagery of a dome, seed pod, etc. The exhibition is simultaneously going on at Mehboob studios in Mumbai. While the NGMA exhibition spans Kapoor's entire career alongside a large group of architectural models, Mehboob presents his major new works in both wax and stainless steel. The biggest loss for Delhiwallas is the dramatic ‘Shooting Into the Corner' — part of the Mumbai package — in which a cannon spews large chunks of crimson wax into a gallery corner. The installation drew maximum attention even when he showcased the piece in his retrospective at the Royal Academy in London last year.

The most significant feature of Anish's works is that they are highly interactive and engaging. S-Curve, a long wall of stainless steel brought, out the child in many of the viewers as they excitedly enjoyed the various reflective effects in the conclave and convex hollows of the work. If ‘Shooting into a Corner' suggests the artist's take on violence, then in S-Curve and in many others the sculptor appears to be dealing with the real transient nature of life. A few visitors including the writer experienced dizziness after looking at the work intensely for a few minutes. Elsewhere, people bent, knelt down, looked behind to confirm whether the hole existed or the wall was really there. Another beautiful work in the show is ‘When I am Pregnant' which is a white bump on a white wall.

(The exhibition is on at NGMA till February 27, 2011)

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 6:32:24 AM |

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