Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Blood red splatters

I went up to London today with my son to see the Anish Kapoor exhibition at the Royal Academy. I've never been a great fan of Kapoor. It all seems pleasant enough, but it has never moved me. His childlike love of materials often seems to produce work that is a bit, well, childlike for me. For all the talk of alchemy and mysticism, a pile of coloured pigment can often doggedly refuse to be anything but a pile of pigment - not less colourful or even beautiful, but not invested with the power that it is clearly intended to have.

But this exhibition - with certain exceptions - seemed different. The huge railway carriage made of red wax, extruding its way through the Royal Academy galleries so slowly it was almost imperceptible, was extraordinary. I can't say I've ever had a dream involving a wax railway carriage, but it was certainly dreamlike. Or is it nightmarish?

And the canon that fires blood red wax at a wall was also rather wonderful. We waited ten minutes but it was worth every second. A man appeared and silently performed the preparations and then BANG - the noise was not so much deafening as shattering: you could feel it thump through your body as the wax shot out and slapped against the far wall.

My son and I had looked at the plaque to the Artists' Rifles as we queued for a ticket, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who found this more than a hollow art trick. While we stood waiting behind the canon I find my thoughts turning to my father who was in the Royal Artillery during World War II and for much of his life thereafter.

Blood red splatters.

The wax dripping down the wall brought a few whoops and a ripple of applause, but I think the noise and the spectacle also stunned the audience a little. Like the wax railway, it was darker than it seems.

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