Trauma and tranquility: Anish Kapoor and minimalist Lee Ufan take over London’s Lisson Gallery
More than thirty years on from his first exhibition at the gallery, Kapoor presents new giant resin and silicon pieces - not for the squeamish - that blur the boundary between sculpture and painting and look, as much as anything, like panels of mangled, torn and charred flesh; tortured lumps of fat and sinew that lurch out of the wall at you (though recalling at once Rembrandt in their very fleshiness, Bacon in their horror-movie punch and Kapoor’s own explosive red wax works). These pieces are not traumatic, they are trauma.
He has been developing these visceral shockers for the last 18 months. And as much as Kapoor has long insisted that he is a painter who is sculptor, as if in trying to do one thing he ended up doing another, they feel like the work of a different artist. Different from the Kapoor of Chicago’s Cloud Gate, or the ’Bean’ as it has been affectionately tagged. This was a kind of crowd-pleasing minimalism that left you feeling cleaner and calmer after viewing, but now it’s as if Sigur Rós has started playing Death Metal.
The odd thing is that becalming, purifying Kapoor is also here in shiny pure shapes and a lovely, almost confectionary pink onyx ovoid. These pieces are also organic and bodily in their way, but womby. As with much of Kapoor’s work, they suck you in and spin you round, but in a good way.
Ufan meanwhile is a less-is-more minimalist proper. He helped establish the Mona-Ha movement in Japan in the 1960s, where he is best known, but recent shows at Versailles and the Guggenheim mothership in New York have bolstered his international reputation.
Ufan has created what the Lisson calls a ’quasi-sacred’ space to house these new works; an effort, the artist says, to ’lead people’s eyes to emptiness and turn their eyes to silence’. Here he has installed four large paintings - carefully composed sweeps of a single colour. In another area a large rock talks, somehow, to a large blank canvas. He is concerned with this kind of material connection. In the gallery’s interior courtyard he has set a large rock onto a sheet of glass, a reflective pond that holds steady. ’My work is interior and exterior,’ Lee has said, ’interrelating objects and finding the coherences and harmonies’. They are then a pointed contrast to Kapoor’s new found dissonance.