Illustrated companion

Anish Kapoor was born in Bombay and has lived in London since 1973 where he trained first at Hornsey and then at Chelsea School of Art. He explored the possibilities of Conceptual Art for a time. Then, in 1979 he made a visit to India which reacquainted him with early cultural memories which were to inform his subsequent work. He also began to take an interest in Jungian psychoanalysis and to employ a vocabulary of forms and images which appear largely symbolic of different aspects of the feminine principle. The art historian Jeremy Lewison has related Kapoor's imagery to the accounts of the female archetype given by the Jungian psychoanalyst Erich Neumann in his book The Great Mother. According to Neumann the creative aspect of man is feminine and is alluded to in various archetypal images among them that of a vessel and mountain. Both these archetypal images are central to Kapoor's art and are prominent in this work. The pair of vessels also suggest breasts and the openings in them evoke the vagina. Such voids are another recurrent image in Kapoor's work. The forms are covered in loose, pure pigment, a procedure inspired by the brightly coloured powders used in Hindu festivals and worship. This use of pigment gives Kapoor's sculptures an extraordinary character and presence and Kapoor has commented 'The act of putting pigment on these objects removes all traces of the hand. They are not made. they are just there.' The title comes from two sources. The first part 'As if to Celebrate ...' is taken from a haiku poem. The second part refers to the Hindu myth of the goddess Devi who was born out of a fiery mountain which was composed of the bodies of male gods. The myth makes mention of a 'blood red mountain' and a 'graceful forest full of flowers'. Kapoor's use of this myth here seems to point up his interest in the dominance of the female principle, as well as his finding of archetypal images in Indian mythology. Although Kapoor is concerned with the purely formal aspects of the arrangements of his works (the yellow element here, he says, acts as a point of punctuation in relation to the red ones) his main concern is with symbolic effect, the bringing together of objects imbued with significance as on an altar or shrine.

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.293