The Museum of Modern Art in Oxford has a long history of displaying established artists as well as up and coming talent. The exhibitions range from those that resemble the morning after the art school party to those of sheer emotional brilliance. The current exhibition, Painting, is definitely in the latter category, showcasing new works from one of the most well known of modern contemporary artists.
Anish Kapoor was born in Mumbai in 1954 and moved to London in the 1970s studying at Hornsey College and the Chelsea School of Art. There he developed the idea of the human body as indeterminate, a meld of organs and flesh. His visceral approach is reinforced by his characteristic palette of deep crimson, bright yellow and deep shades of blue and black unified by brilliant white. This range of colour diffuses throughout the current exhibition.
From the very first large painting, Red Within Her, to the last, Black Within Me, the walls of the galleries are adorned with eighteen paintings illuminated and stand alone sculpture with pigment, waxes, acrylics, oils and fabrics. There are sensual sweeping brush strokes and dense mark making on backgrounds of finer softer brushwork. Kapoor claims there are two ritual materials; earth and blood, which he says “are deeply connected with each other.”
The paintings reveal this throughout as you see the interaction and diverse expression of rich landscapes erupting against the visceral vulnerability of the human body. Kapoor asks us to examine ourselves and “intimately engage with the messy reality of our individual and universal existence.” It is as if we are being challenged to visualise our coming into being at the beginning of time.
Painting is at Modern Art Oxford until 13th February 2022, and I thoroughly recommend a visit. The exhibition is exhilarating and, at the sane time, frightening.