The idea for the work When I Am Pregnant came to the artist on a trip to Uluru, the renowned sandstone rock formation in Australia. In his notes he wrote: “white form on white wall”.1 That is precisely what this work is. At first the exhibition space appears completely empty – the walls are freshly painted white, and the floor is devoid of objects. A round form resembling an abdomen in the later stages of pregnancy swells out of the wall. There are no edges or borders defining the form. It simply “is”. The fluid character of the installation is made manifest in the spaces between the art and the architecture; it is at once a monochrome painting, a sculpture and an installation, as well as being a wall.
The work appears as a dead object that both dismisses the biological while also relating directly to the body. The isolated body part invokes the rest of the body, and the very absence of this body generates a disturbing feeling that something is not entirely as it should be. Reducing the body to a “non-object” denotes the passage between the material and the immaterial, and invites us to look beyond what appears before the naked eye.
A parallel can be drawn between an abdomen, that contains and bears a new life, and the bulging form in the museum’s space. There exists, beyond the bloated “belly”, something permanent and vibrant – something substantial. The empty space need not simply be a room devoid of content; rather it can, by virtue of the viewer’s projections, be suffused with meaning and substance.
- ”Anish Kapoor”, Royal Academy of Arts, London, utstillingskatalog, 2009, s. 29
Text: Ahnikee Østreng
Anish Kapoor was born in Mumbai, India, but moved to London to study art. His sculptures are concerned with the dichotomies of space, material, absence, presence, reflection and absorption and much more. He says that “sculpture works because it is the body”. It is a non-verbal form of communication about some human presence that brings into play a dialogue between viewer, object and artist.
On a visit to Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock) in Central Australia in the late 1980s, the unitary mass of sandstone rising from the body of the earth appeared to Kapoor as neither unitary nor a solid mass. It inspired him to make a sculpture that emerges from the gallery’s white wall as a pregnant form. For the form to be regarded as pregnant, it had to be oval and not round. He noticed when “attenuating the oval into the flat surface of the wall, something remarkable happened. The form disappeared”.
Seen from the front its presence is suggested by a diffuse shadow on the wall. The sculpture’s protrusion from the wall as an oval can only be seen from the side. The sculpture melds presence and absence by making the material of the object vanish into its immaterial subject, in the same manner clay disappears once it becomes a sculpted pot. Seen against the grand scale of his public works, this relatively small sculpture is a sublime statement on the fecundity of creative beginnings.
Text: Gavin Jantjes
From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0