‘All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts’
–William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II Scene 7
‘It seemed it was not a mirrored object but an object full of mirroredness ... If the traditional sublime is in deep space, then this is proposing that the contemporary sublime is in front of the picture plane, not beyond it this is a whole new spatial adventure. To make new art you have to make a new space’
Standing in front of Anish Kapoor’s Untitled, the viewer is met with an inverted reflection of themselves and their surroundings bathed in liquid metal. Drawn into and beyond its brilliant copper surface, we become a part of its vivid, living theatre. Created in 2010, the work forms part of Kapoor’s instantly recognisable and celebrated series of mirrored sculptures. It is one of two similar mirrors, the other shown in the Bronze exhibition celebrating metallic sculpture at the Royal Academy, London, in 2012. Kapoor’s mirrored works have been installed in many public sites across the globe, including Sky Mirror (2006), exhibited in Kensington Gardens, London in 2010-2011, and Cloud Gate (2004), on permanent display in Chicago’s Millennium Park. They not only encourage the viewer to move in front of them, and engage with their own unique experience of the artwork in their hyper-reflective surfaces, but through reflecting their surroundings instantly become a part of them. As the luminous red reverse of the sculpture bounces off the wall behind, it emulates a halo of glowing scarlet around the reflected, liquefied material world of the viewer, thereby intensifying the work’s aura of mystery and mysticism.
Speaking of his concave mirror works, the artist has stated, ‘the interesting thing about a polished surface to me is that when it is really perfect enough something happens – it literally ceases to be physical; it levitates; it does something else … what happens with concave surfaces is, in my view, completely beguiling. They cease to be physical and it is that ceasing to be physical that I’m after’ (A. Kapoor, quoted in Anish Kapoor, exh. cat., Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2008, p. 53). Shaped by Kapoor’s ongoing investigation into the seductive power of mirrors and colour to alter the way we perceive and understand objects, Untitled becomes an enquiry into reality, via a large copper lens that transforms the world around us into a mysterious, gilded realm. Stephanie Dieckvoss writes, ‘While earlier works meditated on themes of the void, emptiness and the abyss, these sculptures engage viewers directly, literally turning our view of the world on its head’ (S. Dieckvoss, in Anish Kapoor: Turning the World Upside Down in Kensington Gardens, exh. cat, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2010, p. 74). In altering reality through the mirror, Kapoor emphasises the illusive nature of all appearances, revealing the world as a stage, and enabling the viewer to become a player who transcends the borderline between the real world, and the illusory reality mirrored back at them.