‘Kapoor’s works oblige the viewer to become sensitive to the continuous processes of cognition and imagination, instinct and dream, sensation and inference, by which the mind constructs the world. Indeed, in such an act of aesthetic response, the mind has a sudden and uncanny experience of looking at itself’
An early example of Anish Kapoor’s celebrated concave mirror sculptures, Untitled (1996) presents the viewer with an inverted reflection of themselves and their surroundings. Drawn into its virtual space, we become physically implicated in a vivid, living theatre, our world turned upside-down in its polished surface. Monumental in scale and mythic in scope, the work coincides with the artist’s transition from floor to wall sculptures: a move that imbued his creations with a newfound sense of weightlessness. Instilling a profound and unnerving self-consciousness in the viewer, Kapoor emphasises the illusive nature of all appearances, revealing the world as a stage or pantomime. Hovering in the liminal space between fiction and reality, the object itself appears to transcend the physical realm, gaining an almost magical aura – an ‘oneiric’ quality, according to the artist. Eliminating all trace of his own hand, Kapoor aims to evoke the sublime Hindu aesthetic of svayambh or the ‘self-made’ object, creating an entity that generates independent meaning through its interaction with the surrounding environment. He has said that ‘the space contained in an object must be bigger than the object which contains it. My aim is to separate the object from its object-hood’ (A. Kapoor, quoted in H. Reitmaier, ‘Anish Kapoor in conversation with Heidi Reitmaier,’ Tate Magazine, July 2007). Kapoor’s concave discs have since become an integral strand of his practice, giving rise to major public commissions such as Sky Mirror for the Rockefeller Centre in New York and Cloud Gate for Chicago’s Millennium Park. The present work was unveiled shortly after its creation at the Kunst-Station St Peter in Cologne: a parish church transformed into an innovative centre for contemporary art and music.
Kapoor’s art conjures a powerful sense of mysticism. Using illusion, the dizzying power of the sublime and the seductive force of light and colour, sculptures like Untitled are persuasive in their mythologising of the world, investing it with Romantic mystery and meaning. Achieved through formal abstraction, this numinous strain in turn invokes the spiritual unity underlying the veil of Maya – the thin and permeable screen-like surface of phenomenal reality on which the fleeting illusions of life are said to appear, like images at the cinema. Untitled requires the physical co-operation and participation of its viewer in order to be fully appreciated. Much as Barnett Newman commanded that to receive the full spiritual impact and intention behind his work the observer should view it from a specific point, many of Kapoor’s works also demand a ‘performance’ from the viewer: as Kapoor puts it, ‘If you perform, they perform’ (A. Kapoor in conversation with R. Cork, Institut Français, London, December 12, 2007). The concave mirrors emit an almost divine force; while existing in real space, the work and the viewer are both transported and transformed to somewhere new. ‘Concave mirror space is in front of the picture plane and it is a new kind of space and a new sublime’, explained the artist. ‘A modern sublime, a “now” sublime, a “here” sublime’ (A. Kapoor in D. de Salvo, ‘Anish Kapoor in Conversation,’ in D. Anfam (ed.), Anish Kapoor, London 2012, p. 403).