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Painting A Thousand Words

Anish Kapoor Lets His Art Do the Talking

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“One hopes that one can trust one's work enough as an artist to let the work speak to people itself”
Anish Kapoor

London-based British-Indian conceptual artist and sculptor, Anish Kapoor is returning to Modern Art Oxford after almost 40 years, with his latest exhibition: Painting. We had the absolute pleasure of catching up with the Turner Prize-winner to talk about his upcoming exhibition, as well as touching on his outlook on art and how it can be useful in exploring yourself, ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

How have you found the last 18 months; have they served as a creative time?

I work in my studio every day, but during lockdown I had a studio at home as well, so it’s enabled me to practice, and that’s been quite good in its own way.

Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming exhibition?

It’s an exhibition of paintings. I’ve made paintings over the last 20-30 years, but I never felt that they were mature enough, if you like, to put into the world. Over the last three or four years though, I’ve felt more able to do that, so this is an exhibition exploring that body of work. I’m a sculptor I’ve always been a sculptor, but I’ve been one who’s played with colour and the way colour and form are deeply affected by each other. This exhibition seems like a logical extension of that process.

Can you explain the meaning behind this body of work?

Personally, I’m not interested in making commentary about the issues that surround us – and they do surround us, of course. One hopes that one can trust one's work enough as an artist to let the work speak to people itself. If it’s really good, a conversation resonates with what is around us. I hope that the work speaks to people or some part of them.

You've said before that you have ‘nothing to say as an artist’, is that what you mean by that; letting the work speak for you?

Exactly. I'm interested in using the process of making the work to unveil to myself things that I didn't know before.

As this is our words issue, I’d like to ask: what word do you think is the most important to you this year?

Post-capitalism. Because, somehow, we have to overcome this terrible hole which we have got ourselves into in which says: profit, profit, profit – at any human cost or any environmental cost. We have to articulate a new language for our fellow beings in the animal world but of course very much so for our fellow human beings across the world.

I noticed that this exhibition comes quite a while after your last at Modern Art Oxford. Are you looking forward to returning to the Oxford area?

Yes! You know, my family and I now live about 20 miles away from Oxford so I'm kind of a local. It’s a wonderful institution so I'm pleased to come back with this new work.

This work is, in part, about pushing boundaries between sculpture and painting. Do you think within modern art, there should be less of a distinguishment between the mediums and styles in work?

Well, one of the things I’ve come across in making objects over many years, is that they’re just like us. Our bodies are not fully described by their apparent physical realities. All I have to do is close my eyes and I can see this vast space within me. On one level, I'm making paintings that – in a fairly straightforward, traditional way – use paint to give form to objects, but I’ve also been making works with this very dark black material which does the opposite and takes away its form or physicality; it’s as if the object doesn't exist.

Finally, October marks World Mental Health Day. Do you find that your work and your journey through art has been therapeutic?

Art as therapy is a very useful tool, but it’s not really what us artists do it for – at least not consciously. I’m sure there are ways in which being fully occupied is therapeutic; whether it’s art, music or theatre, there can be a place in which we can explore the things that trouble us and therefore they can have that sense of safety, a safe environment.

Anish Kapoor’s ‘Painting’ exhibition will run from 2 October 2021 - 13 February 2022 at Modern Art Oxford.

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