The shape of things to come

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The shape of things to come

Art has taken a long time to reach the point where it can simply explore the abstract essence of sensuality. For centuries, art represented, reflected and deconstructed reality, constantly reappropriating the existing images of our everyday lives.
Art shocked, disclaimed and comforted the hearts of the weak. But the underlying assumption was that art needed something beyond the work’s structural elements to create meaning.
The works of Amish Kapoor ― on display now at the Kukje Gallery in central Seoul ― contradict that tradition. His works sit in an odd place between formalism and representational art, mind-versus-body and corporeal-versus-sublime.
Many critics have sought to connect Mr. Kapoor’s works to the artist’s East Indian heritage. For example the vibrant colors of the pigments that he applies on acrylic surfaces have often been associated with the powdered pigments used in Indian traditions. His titles, which often reflect on mythical figures and poetic phrases, serve as a common entry point to his minimalist sculptures.
Yet as an artist, Mr. Kapoor ― a 1991 Turner Prize winner ― seems to express an avid distaste toward critics who ask him explain his artistic motives.
“As an artist, I don’t feel the need to verbalize my works,” he adamantly stated to a group of Korean journalists during his press preview on Tuesday.
His comment may sound like a typical formalist statement. Yet standing in front of Mr. Kapoor’s marble sculpture “Lakshmi” ― a marble slab with a dark, rectangular hole in the center ― the viewer is immediately absorbed by the void’s depths and the enigmatic space it creates.
The irony of the work is, of course, that viewers can’t confirm the actual depth of the void by sticking in their hands: the fragile, powdery pigment used to coat the hole flakes at the slightest touch. But what’s intriguing about Mr. Kapoor is his ability to control people’s psychological responses to his sculptures, evoking what he says is “an ephemeral presence” when viewing the objects.
Mr. Kapoor evokes similar emotional responses from viewers with his translucent resin works and his more recent series of steel plates and black mirrors.
“Anish Kapoor’s methodology is thoroughly sensual and transcends ordinary vision,” said Lee Ulfan, a Korean art critic. “It’s not tied to a certain age or system, but relies more on a fundamental, physical sense of place. It emphasizes the experiential qualities of the lived reality.”
Five works will be on display in the artist’s exhibition at the Kukje Gallery, including works made out of alabaster and his marble series.
One additional aspect of note from the exhibition is a site-specific work on the first floor, which the artist spontaneously decided to include after visiting the gallery space.
A small, square of canvas reflects a thick layer of engine grease that has hardened over time, with sprinkles of gold foil on the surface. The piece, titled “Devotion,” is one of the many site-specific interventions the artist has been producing in recent years. Certainly they add an interesting layer to the exhibition.
It’s perhaps ironic that in a show of sculptures that evokes a sense of space ― or even manipulates space ― that “Devotion” is the only work sitting in space, a passive object that doesn’t play with viewers’ responses.

by Park Soo-mee

The Amish Kapoor exhibition runs until June 29. The Kukje Gallery is located northeast of Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul. For more information, visit or call (02) 735-8449.
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