Made by the British artist Anish Kapoor, this work is a large, horizontally oriented rectangular digital print that consists of an abstract composition in varying tones of red. The centre of the print is dominated by a very dark red oval-shaped area that fades out to a slightly lighter crimson towards the edges of the paper. Faint swathes of white are visible at these edges, forming inverted bow shapes and emphasising the density of the red in the rest of the image. The shifts between colours are subtle and gradual, leading the eye towards the composition’s central oval, the hazy depth of which is suggestive of a space that recedes infinitely. The work is untitled and is part of a portfolio of nine prints entitled Wounds and Absent Objects 1998 (see also Tate P78187–P78194) that are presented in a wooden box with a title page and colophon indicating that the portfolio owned by Tate is one of an edition of twelve.
This portfolio of prints was produced by Kapoor in London in 1997–8. It originates from a video work of the same name, commissioned from Kapoor by Channel 4 in the UK and broadcast in November 1997, that has subsequently been exhibited as a looped video projection lasting seven minutes and thirteen seconds (video reproduced on the artist’s website, http://anishkapoor.com/602/Wounds-and-Absent-Objects.html, accessed 23 July 2015). The film consists of abstract fields of saturated colour that emanate from a central circular point, moving through tones of red, brown, green, purple, blue and white and accompanied by an atmospheric, faintly rumbling soundtrack. The prints are four-colour pigment transfers produced from single still frames taken from the video work. They were printed by Adam Lowe at Permaprint in London in 1997–8 and published in 1998 by The Paragon Press, London. The pigment transfer process used to create the prints has resulted in visual alterations such that the colours in the prints bear subtly different hues and levels of saturation to those in the original film.
Born in India in 1954, Kapoor took a return visit there in 1979, where he became fascinated with the raw blue, yellow and red pigments found in Indian temples, shrines and markets. He began to make sculptures from similar pigments (see, for instance, 1000 Names 1979–85) as well as works in various media that presented viewers with immersive experiences of colour and light. For example, Ishi’s Light 2003 (Tate T12004) is a large, curved form in which the viewer is invited to stand amid the red-black lacquer lining its inner walls. Kapoor has frequently discussed his practice in relation to the idea of the void that induces a sense of the sublime through experiences of deep colour, stating in 1995:
The void has many presences. Its presence as fear is towards the loss of self, from a non-object to a non-self. The idea of being somehow consumed by the object, or in the non-object, in the body, in the cave, in the womb, etc. … of being pulled inwards.
(Quoted in Carmiel van Winkel, Anish Kapoor, trans. by Beth O’Brien, exhibition catalogue, De Pont Foundation for Contemporary Art, Tilburg 1995, p.41.)
With Wounds and Absent Objects Kapoor could be seen to foreground the absorptive capacities of colour, sound and undulating surface in a way that is suggestive of a womb or a cavernous space. This may also account for the mention of ‘absent objects’ in the portfolio’s title, while the recurrence of the colour red in the prints and film could be a visual reference to both the womb and to the titular ‘wounds’.
The notion of the void as described by Kapoor has frequently emerged in the artist’s drawing and printmaking practice. His portfolio of thirteen etchings Blackness from Her Womb 2000 (Tate P78608–P78620) use colour to describe amorphous, organic forms, and the drawings in the series Mass 1998–2003 resemble the Wounds and Absent Objects prints in their bold but softly rendered colour that is used to produce abstract compositions rooted in a central circular form. Kapoor said of his drawings in 2004, ‘There is something completely nebulous about them. It’s as if they enter a kind of dreamy space’ and that ‘My real subject is darkness … It’s black and dark, in the cave, foreboding, back to the womb, in the tunnel, underground, deeply creative, the Freudian uncanny, the unresolved’ (quoted in Lewison 2005, p.183). This emphasis on darkness and irresolution can be seen in Wounds and Absent Objects, in which an apparently indefinitely receding tunnel-like centre offers no visual or interpretive cues to the viewer beyond an experience of abstract colour and space.
Such effects in Kapoor’s work have led to comparisons with that of abstract expressionist artist Barnett Newman (1905–1970), whose colour field paintings present an enveloping surface of unmodulated colour that functions to draw viewers into an experience of the sublime (see Newman’s Eve 1950, Tate T03081; for a discussion of Kapoor’s work in relation to Newman’s painting see Crone and von Stosch 2008, pp.29–37). The curator Jeremy Lewison has extended this discussion to Kapoor’s works on paper, observing that these ‘can be inhabited in a phenomenological sense … At eye level the work becomes engulfing, enveloping, sculptural; it is a kinaesthetic rather than a cognitive experience’ (Lewison 2005, p.185).
Jeremy Lewison, Anish Kapoor: Drawings 1997–2003, London and Cologne 2005.
Rainer Crone and Alexandra von Stosch, ‘Sublime Shifts from Color to Darkness’, in Crone and von Stosch, Anish Kapoor: Svayambh, Munich 2008, pp.21–55.
David Anfam, Johanna Burton, Richard Deacon and Donna De Salvo, Anish Kapoor, London and New York 2009.
Supported by Christie’s.