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Anish Kapoor: Mirror Stages

Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul September 10, 2013, to January 5, 2014

Mirrors can invert, distort, reveal and register experiences. Sculptor Anish Kapoor’s reflective work Non-Object (Pole) (2008) refracts a spectacular view of the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus Sea from the marble terrace of the Sakip Sabanci Museum in Istanbul. The mirror, in this case, operates as a kind of cultural and pictorial index, recording not only the surrounding foreground as a kind of proto–landscape painting, but also imprinting the embedded histories of the Turkish people, as well as the Ottoman and Byzantine empires, their politics, social systems and cultural traditions.

The open-ended double oval is one of four reflective non-objects (as Kapoor often calls them) installed on the museum grounds. It effectively launches Anish Kapoor’s first solo exhibition in Turkey. The show bears no overarching curatorial theme (which is, nonetheless, a theme); rather, it emphasizes the importance of viewer experience over Kapoor’s artistic authority.

Taking up three floors and involving many large-scale stone works (some weighing up to 11 tons) the survey includes some 30 pieces—reflective, pigmented void, pigmented and stone void, and others. Kapoor’s pigmented void objects Untitled (1995), My Body Your Body (1993) and Yellow (1999) are explorations of monochrome colour. Kapoor has suggested that the use of monochrome colour imposes a powerful effect on the body and psyche, especially when it takes the form of a field. The artist believes that the work ceases to be a surface, and rather becomes a phenomenological problem which, for the viewer, manifests in physical responses based on individual psycho-social memories and experiences.

Yellow provides the viewer with a phenomenological experience of the Kantian sublime through its large-scale immersive colour field. Formally, the work is a five-metre-squared installation of primary yellow pigment with a central convex void. It dwarfs the viewer and changes visual perception. It has mass and occupies both physical and psychic space.

Pigment and stone void works like Adam (1988–89) and Oracle (1990–2002) create their own biomorphic resonance, conveying a personified version of the sublime. The mixed-media wall installations Flower (2007) and Archaeology and Biology (2007) are interventions into the gallery space with removed wall sections that become visceral, open wounds.

Some stone works like the quasi-pyramid-shaped With A Past (2009) are emptied of their core mass to become hollow shells. The hollow shell is a continuing theme of Kapoor’s; he seems to use it to seek an understanding of the relationship between the interior and exterior.

The mass, volume and weight of the stone works (even the voids) tends to ground the exhibition in the tangible world with strong material presence. The esoteric, transcendental experience is more readily available through the pigmented void works.

It has also been suggested that the vast number of stone works, many previously unexhibited, has a profound resonance in a country and city so rife with archaeological ruins and historic monuments. In this way and others, the exhibition inside the museum acts as a reflection of its surrounds much in the same way that Non-Object (Pole) does outdoors.

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