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.
Radiant, alluring and flawlessly fashioned, Untitled hails from Anish Kapoor’s iconic series of wall-mounted mirror sculptures: a stunningly resplendent installation that captures the brilliant genius of one of the most influential and acclaimed sculptors today. Suspended above the ground, Untitled confronts the viewer with a curved face of gleaming gold that delicately arcs inwards to encompass the totality of its ambient space. The immaculately reflective material broadcasts a visual and physical weightlessness; nothing exists within its ellipse other than distorted and disorienting remnants of reflection, such that the piece manifests as an enigmatic portal or porthole towards an alternate universe that is simultaneously empty and full. The manipulation of space, the interrogation and reconciliation of interior and exterior, the material and immaterial, as well as the possibilities of emptiness and the void have been central to Kapoor’s oeuvre throughout his career. All these investigations are perfectly epitomized in the present piece: through the concave curve of the mirror, the presence of negative space is asserted as an integral part of the work and made tangible; while the shimmering surface, polished to perfection, lures the viewer into otherworldly depths of the void.
Kapoor began creating his astonishing curved sculptures at the turn of the new millennium, utilizing the potential of the format in a range of different colored metallics, of which the gold examples are strikingly powerful in their magnificent celebration of a perfect polished surface – a recognition of an almost alchemical process in which raw material becomes gleaming gold. Radiating a majestically solar elegance, visually and symbolically reminiscent of the sun at the zenith of its orbit, the rich gold hues of the work manifest a unique prism that seems to liquefy all imagery captured within; as the viewer’s perspective changes, these mercurial layers of reflection undergo sudden metamorphosis into total fragmentation, providing an unprecedented visual experience of constant abstract and intangible flux. As a successor to Constantin Brancusi’s innovative employment of the highly polished surface, the transitory act of looking itself becomes dialectically inherent in the artwork.
In a recent interview Kapoor recalled the aesthetic revelation which led to the creation of his mirrored works following his sculptural inquiry into infinite void-like space: “I stumbled onto the idea that one could make an object that was concave. Suddenly this was not just a camouflaged object; it seemed to be a space full of mirror just like the previous works had been a space full of darkness. That felt like a real discovery. What happened was that it wasn’t just a mirror on a positive form – we have had that experience from Brancusi onwards. This seemed to be a different thing, a different order or object from a mirrored exterior…” (the artist cited in Hossein Amirsadeghi and Maryam Homayoun Eisler, eds., Sanctuary: Britain’s Artists and their Studios, London 2011, p. 436). The inversed reflection creates a powerful sense of an alternate or inverse space beyond its circular limit. The luminous reflectivity of the surface causes shimmering ripples of light to reflect off the surrounding environment whilst seeming to radiate light outwards from the inverted orb itself. Indeed, like a votive icon, Untitled sustains our attention: by circumnavigating the work the viewer becomes enveloped within the space of the work itself.
With its ability to arouse such mysterious and enigmatic visual and physical experiences, Untitled invites profound connections to Kapoor’s enduring fascination with the spiritual idea of the Sublime – the theory popularized through the writings of Edmund Burke in the 18th century that advocated the contemplation of natural wonders and awe-inducing phenomena as a source of creative inspiration. In Kapoor’s own words: “It seemed it was not a mirrored object but an object full of mirroredness. The spatial questions it seemed to ask were not about deep space but about present space, which I began to think about as a new sublime. 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. I continue to make these works because I feel this is a whole new spatial adventure” (the artist cited in exh. cat., Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Anish Kapoor, 2008, p. 52).
Impeccably round and infinitely reflective, Kapoor’s dish is magnetically disorienting. This piece relays a warped echo of our world in gold; glowing, orb-like and emitting a pale warm light akin to the setting sun, Untitled hovers against the wall and invokes an endless stream of allusions spanning myriad cultures and mythologies entrenched in notions of life and light. From the sun god of Ancient Egypt to the halos of Christian iconography, Kapoor’s hovering metallic orbs deliver a contemporary manifestation of the sun’s manifold associations. An object of timeless beauty and commanding authority, Untitled is a prime example of the reflective mirror sculptures that lie at the heart of Kapoor’s singular sculptural practice.