Land of the Giants; Do Our Artists-in-Chief, Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley, Have Anything New to Say with Their Latest Works?

By Hackworth, Nick | The Evening Standard (London, England), May 16, 2003 | Go to article overview

Land of the Giants; Do Our Artists-in-Chief, Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley, Have Anything New to Say with Their Latest Works?


Hackworth, Nick, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: NICK HACKWORTH

THOUGH it is the Young British Artists who make the headlines, Britain's most distinguished artists belong to the generation that preceded them.

Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor, both in their fifties and both Turner Prize winners, have jointly assumed Henry Moore's mantle as the nation's artists-in-chief, lauded by the Arts Council and the Tate and turned to first when public and institutional works are to be commissioned.

Accordingly, their work has been steadily inflating to a size appropriate to their status. Gormley constructed Britain's largest ever sculpture, the Angel of the North, which commands the entrance to Newcastle from the South, and his monumental Quantum Cloud hovers above the Thames by the ill-fated Dome; Kapoor has filled the cavernous interiors of both Tate Modern and Baltic with his oversized tubes. This week, in two exhibitions, these artists reveal their latest work.

Gormley and Kapoor came to prominence in the Eighties, but they are both very much children of the Seventies. With refined hippy sensibilities, they invoke the power of Zen Buddhism and their work explicitly aims to achieve the transcendental. In what, from today's perspective, looks grandly traditional in intent, their work has something edifying to impart to everyone.

Kapoor's work is the more visually intriguing of the two. At the Lisson Gallery, his new show includes a number of his familiar, wall-hung and freestanding geometric forms, but this time coated with high-tech iridescent paint, of the kind used on fast cars and motorbikes, and finished with thick, reflective varnish so that they bend light and trick the eyes.

Stand a little distance in front of one of the wall-hung, smooth, round dishes that are about twoanda-half metres in diameter and the concave surface will seem to be, say, metallic brown.

As you move closer, the colour sparkles and shifts through the spectrum, becoming, in turn, green, blue and then grey.

Move still closer and suddenly depth disappears, an almost holographic effect takes over and your vision is filled with shimmering, so that it feels as if you are stepping into a pool or a force-field.

The pieces are fully in keeping with Kapoor's tradition of attempting to be both aesthetically pleasing and spiritually resonant, and as sculptures appearing in an exhibition entitled Painting, they are also designed to subvert the three-dimensional/two-dimensional divide by creating a visual space that exists only in your perception.

However, like his previous work, they stray into the dangerously ephemeral territory of the fairground trick and only by an absurd stretch can sensory befuddlement be equated with spiritual significance. …

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