On opening night, in a gallery filled with Frieze visiting art collectors, it was hard to appreciate the subtlety of Kapoor's new work. Surrounded by pouting people pondering over £80,000 price tags, the playfulness of the organic sculptures easily got lost. It was almost tempting to dismiss the works as things seen before, and to brush over the novelties and head for the bar.
But Anish Kapoor's work inevitably evokes a desire to explore; his new works, like his larger scale installations in the public sphere, have the exhilarating tendency to change one's perception of space. This is particularly visible in Dirty Corner (2010), which deceptively suggests infinity, but also in Kapoor's hemispherical monochromes and his earth works, some of which seem to be floating from the wall, creating the illusion of weightlessness in space (Mars, 2012).
Kapoor is an artist who is comfortable not telling a story – it is what he does best. His task, which he declaimed early on in his career, is to explore materials and colours, to find new shapes to fill spaces. Kapoor doesn't get stuck in philosophical theories about love, life or death but rather has a much more earthy perception of art – it is physicality that counts.
The artist once said that 'sculpture is about space and the way one's body interacts with space.' Looking at sculpture (as opposed to viewing a two-dimensional work) should be a physical experience. Kapoor is in this respect a gentle communicator; he doesn't try to control the emotional reaction or the physical response of his viewers, but allows for open-minded interaction and for meaning to gradually emerge.
Occupying both buildings of the Lisson Gallery on Bell Street, the current exhibition marks the impressive thirty-year collaboration between the gallery and artist, and can be seen as a celebration, if a tentative one. The exhibition only shows recent work – an obvious choice for a commercial gallery – but it would have been fantastic to see, amongst the more recent monochromatic fibreglass works, some of Kapoor's earlier pigment pieces, such as At The Hub of The Things (1987/88).
There is an intriguing BBC broadcast, Five Sculptors (27 May 1988), about one of Kapoor's first exhibitions at the Lisson. As he prepares for his exhibition, Kapoor mentions an example of Rodin, who often switched all the lights off at his exhibitions and showed his pieces by candlelight. It struck me as something that would, too, enhance the experience of Kapoor's current show.
(All images: Anish Kapoor, Installation Views, Lisson Gallery, London 2012; Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery.)