Summary

This untitled sculpture comprises three ground-based, free-standing forms placed in a diagonal row, and a fourth form affixed above them on the gallery wall. Each shape evokes a hybrid of the natural and the man-made, as they are abstract and stylised yet curiously organic. The relationship between the four separate forms is determined by their shared colour – an intense blue – and their spatial alignment – a geometrical arrangement that seems to link the forms together. This arrangement encourages the spectator to read the ground-based forms consecutively in terms of height, from the lowest, which is furthest from the wall, to the tallest, which is closest to the wall. The lowest is round, but unevenly so, resembling a coiled ball. The next juxtaposes a spiked base of outward-thrusting cones coloured grey with a rounded, phallic upper part coloured blue. The tallest unites a round base with a conical top; its undulating surface evokes the textures of draped fabric or waves. On the wall, the slightly flattened ball shape of the fourth form resembles a stylized rose bloom.

Kapoor used bright pigments in much of his sculpture of the 1980s. The artist was brought up in India, and studied art in London at Hornsey College of Art (1973–7) and Chelsea School of Art and Design (1977–8). In 1979, he returned to India on a visit, and afterwards began to use pure pigments in primary hues, evoking not only the colours he had rediscovered in India, but also the use of powder in religious ritual; see, for example, As if to Celebrate, I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers 1981 (T03675). Kapoor used dense Prussian blue for some of the works in this group (see At the Hub of Things 1987, reproduced in Celant, p.89), but the colour used in Untitled 1983 is exceptionally vivid. Blue pigment transforms the appearance of the polystyrene of which the sculpture is principally made, but it conceals not only the material used but the artist’s techniques as well. Kapoor has explained:

What is important about these works is not that they are made out of pigment. The curious thing is that they appear to be made out of pigment. ‘Truth to materials,’ which was a big thing when I first started making sculpture, seemed to hold the whole thinking about sculpture down to the nuts and bolts of its factual realities. It said that what you see is what you get, and I think that art is exactly the opposite. What you see is not what you get! For me the illusory is more poetically truthful than the ‘real’. People would often wonder about the pigment pieces – are they really made of pigment? Well, some of them are and some of them aren’t, and that has never been a problem for me since I believe an object is read through its skin. I wanted to put truth to materials to one side and say that art is about lots of things that are not present.

(Quoted in Baume, p.40.)


The intensely saturated but powdery colour produced by pure pigment, whether blue, red or yellow, makes the solid forms of the pigmented floor pieces seem curiously porous, nebulous and fragile. As with other works from this group of sculptures, Kapoor’s use of pigment gives Untitled 1983 a sensual quality that emphasises the object’s tactility. The apparent relationship between each component of the sculpture makes the whole seem self contained, ordered and symbolic, even though the nature of that relationship and its symbolism remains unexplained. The artist has commented:

I like the idea that the object has its own Gestalt, its own resolvedness, even as it accumulates other layers of meaning. I’m not talking about narrative. They may have references, but they are not narrative objects: they don’t delineate the process of their own making. At the same time, there is a suggestion of ritual in the layout, the sprinkling of pigment, the delicacy of the surface.

(Quoted in Baume, p.40.)


Further Reading:
Nicholas Baume, ed., Anish Kapoor: Past, Present, Future, exhibition catalogue, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston 2008.
Germano Celant, Anish Kapoor, London 1996.
Marco Livingstone, Anish Kapoor: Feeling Into Form, exhibition catalogue, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, and Le Nouveau Musée, Lyon 1983.

Alice Sanger
December 2008