Understanding Mr Kapoor

“There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him”
Antonin Artaud

How does one define genius? An individual who doesn’t speak the language of the ordinary, someone whose vision defies stereotypes. Who decides the extraordinary? A bunch of book critics...art gallery owners…stuffy academicians! In a society that enshrines the ordinary, how does one understand a person whose vision is beyond the scope of the ordinary? It takes another man of exceptional capability, to appreciate and fathom a genius. A painter who unleashes his soul on the canvas, a scientist who challenges the conventional, the actor who refuses to compromise, musicians who strike an unknown note… Isaac Asimov, Sylvia Plath, Joyce, Kafka, Bach….the examples are far too many.

Stories of individuals who lived a misunderstood, tortured life, battling polarized opinions and dying in penury. Their work discovered and celebrated later – recognition earned posthumously. It took a Salieri to understand Mozart (and Salieri was Mozart’s most bitter rival). Did you know Einstein won the Nobel not for his path-breaking theory of relativity but for his little known photoelectric effect? Why? Because at that point of time it was beyond the comprehension of many – only two fellow scientists Silberstein and Eddington, understood its far-reaching potential. Ironic isn’t it?

I was going to witness the work of a maverick artiste – revered as God by many and labeled pretentious by a few. It is tough to define Anish Kapoor – an architect, a sculptor extraordinaire, an installation artiste. Hailed as one of the most influential sculptors of his generation, he is unfortunately mostly unknown in the country of his origin. I hadn’t heard of him, till he was invited to exhibit some his iconic work in the cities of Mumbai and Delhi.

It takes time to warm up to Mr Kapoor’s works – you don’t start oohing and aahing instantly. Just like the movie “Inception” where you took twenty minutes before you even started grasping Nolan’s world of dreams within dreams. Anish Kapoor dwarfs you with his vision, it’s so expansive. His architecture defies convention – a foot bridge that looks like a bubble, a subway built like a large bulbous organism suddenly breaking into a void, spirals of nothingness. His work transcends architecture, sculpture and art. A void bored into a mountain, sculpture that blends fabrics with steel, a gigantic foghorn sitting on a coastline. Each piece taunts you with its absurdity. He presents his interpretation of universe through his gigantic pieces. His shapes evoke images of the human body. Illusion is central to his work.

His fascination with the void is evident in most of his works, a hole of nothingness with you at its brink – terrifying yet fascinating. A polished stainless steel “S Curve” that almost seems alive! He loves playing with single, solid colours – vivid plashes of yellow, the deep purple that creates an illusion of depth , the vibrant crimson that so defines our culture. His art is typified by the absence of edges – it’s flamboyant, smooth, you have this unbearable urge to touch and feel the texture, caress its smooth lines.

Of what started as a Am I wasting my time here ended with me feeling blessed to have witnessed art this extraordinary. In Kapoor’s words…Earlier it was me trying to tell the world what I’m saying and now it’s other’s clamoring to tell me what my work is telling them!

I don’t think I’ve reached a stage where I can interpret Anish Kapoor. All I can say is, only in letting go do we find our true selves. You never know what hidden gem you’ll unearth. Good, bad or ugly, just embrace it with an open heart.
Our creative genius is the fountainhead of originality. It fires our compulsion to evolve. It inspires us to challenge norms. Creative genius is about flying to new heights on untested wings. It is about the danger of crashing.
~~ Gordon MacKenzie


  1. Wow Purba. I find it so hard to describe a couple of things in words. One, my own feelings (mostly because they're knotted most of the time) and the other is describing something created by someone else (simply because I don't think I'd do enough justice). You do it with so much ease. In Awe! :)

    Anish Kapoor's exhibition been hailed as the best of 2010. This is where I found him - http://www.cnngo.com/mumbai/life/mumbais-best-and-worst-2010-323897

  2. oh... aah... i love it...i do...
    i could never describe it to anyone.. but all i know is im in love with his work.. the singularity of color, the form, the scraping, the stretching, the reflective, the attempt to create portals, universes, the inside of your mind... i love his work. I like how you have written. in fact all that i have read abt it in the papers are superficial reviews.. you have a knack.. i love it.
    i love him.. i would take a job sweeping his studio

  3. Frankly as I started reading this post, i thought you are another B_wood buff about to write on Raj Kapoor!

    Loved the work of Anish..good that you brought out a genius in ur blog

  4. I loved this post. I read it thrice.

    I first came to know of Kapoor after going through distinguished alumni lists of creative universities around the world. Chelsea School Of Art and Design is now a part of The University Of Arts London. I clicked out of curiosity and the first piece of his that I recognized was the 'big liquid drop of steel thing' as I called it, that I had seen in pictures of Chicago.

    What blew me away was, not the design and the conceptualization of his works alone but the techniques and fabrication. It's one thing to think of something but to actually build it, is amazing. The S curve, Cloudgate and most of his works involving metal, involved using novel and unorthodox welding techniques.

    He's a genius because he is one of the few who can blend science and art faultlessly and exquisitely.
    His big projects bring together artistes, sculptors, engineers together.

    I think I read somewhere a reporter had referred to his studios and workshops as a 'Labs' because there was more of chemicals and tools than anything else. How apt.

    Great stuff!

  5. Mazingout...Not with too much ease...had to work on it...took me three drafts :)

    Jyo...An ode to your God. And he looks good too.

    Jon...Uhh not really..was never a fan of his work.
    Anish is something else!

  6. I also just discovered, Mr Kapoor studied electrical engineering as well.!

  7. Ujjwal...You never cease to amaze me. The depth of your knowledge and so well informed.

    The non-conformist in his group, you will rise and shine :))

  8. I think it was two years back I came to know about this genuius artist and bowled me over with his creation that am sure needs to be seen in real to get the full 3 dimensional visualization and understanding. Lucky you!

  9. I loved the facts. Mr. Kapoor sure is reflecting to be the type of gem that everyone one would like to know. Post ended with an excellent thought of accepting everyone.

  10. I am not an art buff, but the way you have described the exhibition, I must go and see it. I also need some diversion to keep me engaged and what better than an art exhibition?

    Did you know that you could beat the so called 'art critics' of magazines hollow with your write-ups?

  11. the reason , i think , why Kapoor is not as famous (in India) as he should be,or not held in as high an esteem becoming an artist of his stature and calibre ,is that his art is a form of vision,its not the skilled chiseling of an artisan , something most can relate to more easily. Its almost like movies , where often actors walk away with the accolades , while its the directors vision that makes the movie . We often Talk of movies as being Amir Khan movie , SRK movie or Brad Pitt movie....how much do we give to the director.....how much creadit does Robert Zemeckis gets for Forrest Gump.....we often look at the work in sweat and blood , ignoring the vision and thought that went into it....

  12. Seriously serious! You are good at art critic too. I will now go and google Mr Kapoor.

  13. Associatedcontentnetwork.com Article directory free for publish your press release and articles !

  14. Lakshmi....I missed his work in London, feel like kicking myself hard.

    Prateek..It's a must visit exhibition.

    Zephyr...Not an art critic, just a spectator moved by his work.
    Go on a Sunday, when the traffic is almost sane.

  15. Abhijit...And his work doesn't appeal to you instantly, it grows on you. They have these horrible imitations of his installations under the AIMS flyover in Delhi.

    Giribala....You can plan a trip to Chicago to see some of his works.

  16. is photography allowed of the exhibits?

  17. magiceye....Nopes...you can only watch from a distance. No touching, no taking photographs.

  18. Very nice article Purba, thanks for sharing..

    To me a person is genius if he/she is very adventurous both mentally and physically and have high concentration levels. They dont budge to anything unless they finish what they are doing.
    I feel it is more to do with the way of life they are leading and the principles. Some say there are several born geniuses but I personally agree.
    If there are some who can answer to the question : 88 to the power of 88 in 1 minute, then they have altered brain structure.


  19. http://www.architectnarigandhi.org/
    This is where we can read about India's another unsung talent through kind contributions and photos by admirers. Mr Nari Gandhi, Architect and Designer(1934-93) who most followers, including students, of Art and Architecture may have missed to remember or know.

    Purba this article is very very personal for someone like me in this field of design and Architecture not because it talks about Anish's creations but also it is a warm tribute to those unsung hands and minds who have created lots of amazing stuffs but somehow one doesn't know about them because either is the opportunity to promote themselves or the resources to.

    I will take this opportunity to also thank those brave army soldiers of the engg corps who somehow manage to stitch our country's image with that fast track 2day bridge in lodhi road after the "to be "permanent one collapse during CWG days.i wonder the kind of brainstorming and time mental pressures they must have to pull it through to cover up our babus and us.they are indeed my "unsung and unnamed heroes" at the moment.


  20. I am really finding it hard whom to appreciate-your fabulous way to handled the stuff or the kapoor's genius-kudos to both of you.

  21. his works are indeed marvellous :D brilliant... creativity at its best...
    brilliant is your article too... so well written and described.

  22. RK...Beautifully put. True, how often do we thank our unsung heroes- engrossed in our long list of cribs. Will go through this link, thanks for posting it :)

    Arpana...Ohh thank you so much. Glad you liked it.

    Rajlakshmi....I don't think I've managed to do justice with my words. But I can always keep trying.

  23. I have no idea who the Mr. Kapoor is :(

    But reading your article .. hats off to him..


  24. It sounded out of the world. Seriously! I wish I could do something extraordinary like him.

  25. There was this huge ball of wax being sculptured and re-sculptured by a wiper like device... fascinating!
    I for one love watching designs form on any surface...especially love petrol on water!
    Good to see we all enjoy weird things a little better!

  26. Honestly, his work is beyond my comprehension. So is abstract art.....Saw pictures of his work in magazines and papers.

    You have summed it beautifully in the end.

  27. It was an experience reading this. Though I haven't heard of Anish Kapoor either in my young life which has yet been oblivious of the beauty of modern architecture, I will certainly try and get whatever information I can about his work.
    And what you said about letting go to unleash creative genius is very true, I believe as well.

  28. Bikramjit...Try London, you will come across a lot of his intallations.

    Nethra...If you believe you can, you will :)

    Nalini...Great to have you back, hope you are feeling better. That mammoth red ball of wax was on display too....it was fascinating. He makes you think, not just admire.

  29. Alka...But it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. Who knows, you might just love it.
    I don't claim to be a connoisseur of the Abstract, Tate Modern Gallery left me cold. But you can't remain unaffected by Anish Kapoor's works.

    D2...There's so much to see, so much to explore, don't let anything limit you or hold you back :)

  30. wonderful work.

    You can copyright this quote:

    'Only in letting go do we find our true selves' - Purba Ray

  31. Heard of Anish Kapoor only in this blog, I don't have the artistic eye, I guess. But you have, in this article created a compulsive desire for us readers, to give it a go. Beautifully written and as always I love the way you finish off your articles

    Happy New Year...

  32. Hi Purba,
    Thanks for sharing this info , I was thinking otherway when I read the article over my dashboard feed ;)

    Wish You and your Family a very Happy New Year 2011.

    Take care
    Keep smiling.

  33. Joshi...Wow, am preening already :)

    The Analyst...The exhibition was an experience, I had to share with you all.

    Vivek...Have a sparkling New Year :)


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