Saturday, December 18, 2010

Winter Holidays Begin

I went to the Anish Kapur exhibition yesterday. The National Gallery of Moodern Art is an old haunt. When I have a free day, and it's sunny or rainy, I set out and spend an hour or two there. I used to like the old arrangement at the gallery, where in the 1970s and 1980s you first saw company art in the corridors, and then went into the Amrita Shergill collection, and upstairs all in a confusion, paintings through the 50s and 60s of the last century. Now the Gallery is much more organised, and the paintings arranged in a neat and very fabulous new arrangement, where you can actually climb several floors and not notice it. There are sofas to rest on, and the paintings are absorbing, but I still miss the old sequence of large rooms leading into one another.  
The Anish Kapoor exhibition was of miniatures of his work, which is huge absolutely, so the tiny replicas looked a little bedraggled, like school boy projects in cardboard and stainless steel. The BBC film which was on, explaining his work, produced the right kind of effect on the viewer, that of awe. And there was a mirror, too, like at last year's art exhibition in Pragati Maidan, which was a huge success with the middle class viewers  (none of us buyers!)who crowded the galley ways excitedly. This mirror also told the story of the world, rather of oneself, many times over. Small triangles of mirrors were joined faultlessly together, very simply with white cellotape at the back, but the effect was spectacular, it could have been a snowflake, or a chrysanthemum, or a star shining in the sky.
He also had something which he called St Thomas' Meditation, so completely abstract as to be a cut in the white domed wall, with a pelt of red blood. One could imagine the rest.
The young people in the halls understood his work completely. They sang  exultantly around and about the odd miniatures, imagining them as real buildings in real time. They could see the future in a way I could not, they could imagine amphitheatres sunk into the ground, and museums with glass tunnels which allowed people to circulate freely as visible to the eye as the art works. It filled them with a euphoria that was about running and leaping and hiding. And I imagined Rudolf Nureyev for a moment, muscular, still and consumed. There is a great tragedy about miniaturisation which only the imagination can free. It is true for bonsai, it is true for   artists who draw on a grain of rice. Anish Kapoor has the same skill, a meditative moment, and then the metal casters and painters and rope swingers come and execute the moment in a great arch or mirror which reflects the sky or people's sense of their interior self. He gives up something so that others can share in it, and the reflection of this moment may cost 23 million dollars to execute, as in Chicago, but no one cares: neither artist, nor urban muncipal committee nor the anonymous traveller. So that's the magic mirror in Ray Bradbury stories.

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