"Red is a colour I've felt very strongly about. Maybe red is a very Indian colour, maybe it's one of those things that I grew up with and recognize at some other level."
-Anish Kapoor (Artist Statement, John Tusa, Transcript of the John Tusa interview with the sculptor Anish Kapoor, BBC)
Red Homeland (Lot 1099) was influenced by the landscape Anish Kapoor first created for My Red Homeland, a large-scale installation in which twenty-five tons of red-tinted Vaseline was piled up and then strategically leveled by a mechanical plough at the Kunsthaus Museum in Bregenz, Austria. The present work documents and then deconstructs or rather destroys the landscape first seen in the museum show. Unlike the overwhelming landscape, whose physical weight and monumental mass dominated the museum installation, this deconstruction of landscape is contained by the structure of the light box making it less a landscape than an image of one- a film still, capturing a moment in the creative process.
If the viewer was a witness in the immense shaping of My Red Homeland, the reduction of scale in this work repositions the viewer as voyeur. The image resembles a lump of flesh or spilled entrails. While the scene is grotesque and puzzling there is a degree of disengagement between the viewer and the butchery partly due to the ambiguity of the image but also due to the constructs of the lightbox. Contained and illuminated, form has become surface and materiality has become color. The garish physicality of the materials is controlled by the formal attributes of the flat image; its own weight alleviated and projected onto the viewer.
In a recent article in the September/October 2008 issue of Art Asia Pacific, which featured My Red Homeland on its cover, Sandhini Poddar explores Kapoor's unique approach to sculpture and his fascination with the relationship of subject and object. Poddar writes, Kapoor's sculptures require that we bring meaning to the act of seeing; as participants, rather than mere spectators, we become hyper-conscious of our own position in space and of our own scale, with no where to hide." (S. Poddar, "The Fiction of Auto-Generation ," Art Asia Pacific, No. 60, September - October 2008, New York, p. 158).
In the artist's own words: "An essential issue in my work is that the scale always relates to the body." Despite the critical distance between the viewer and image, the reduction in scale actually makes the landscape more accessible, even intimate (and perhaps inescapable). Even the slight alteration in the title, My Red Homeland is edited to Red Homeland suggesting both an abbreviation in scale and subset of a larger concept, but also gives the viewer the opportunity to repossess the landscape, to make it their own. Viewing then becomes a private rather than surreptitious act. The architectural form lodged into the pile of red mass recalls Kapoor's mirrored pieces or even a handheld compact a woman would use to apply lipstick-red-a simple, yet highly personal and sensual act in which pure color is used to define and enhance physical form.
The artist will remind us however, that, red is not solely an external enhancement, "red, of course, is the colour of the interior of our bodies. In a way it's inside out, red" (Artist Statement, ibid) If red is inside each one of us then there is no distance between the viewer and the image before them, instead it is a direct examination and reflection of self in all its beauty and repugnance.