A giant red glob hangs suspended above a clinical metal tray with spouts to allow for the red liquid within it to run off. It’s like I’m in a slaughterhouse looking at the aftermath, yet it does feel like a glob of paint could fall off the sculpture at any time and that if I was permitted to put my hand against it I may detect a faint heartbeat. I also want to run my fingers through the liquid, but maybe that’s just my macabre taste.
Better known for his sculpture, this is Anish Kapoor showing off his paintings – though as we can see the work I’ve described he’s not giving up on those sculptural roots, and his obsession with the primal colour read continues across this show.
It’s these installation works that are the strongest works in this show as they take command of the space. There are others with wooden bases that feel too much like artworks – unlike their metal companions that make you forget that what we’re looking at is paint and not bleeding entities.
Surrounding these central works are the paintings and they feel like the less attractive cousins to his central works. That’s not to say they aren’t eye catching as what look like volcanoes erupt and in others it’s as if they’re splattered with flesh and blood. As much as they try they just don’t provoke the visceral reactions I get from his installations. Kapoor references Titian when talking about his work but these remind me more of John Martin’s apocalyptic hellscapes.
The paintings on the wall do serve as a reminder that ultimately this is show of his paintings and even the central works are slathered in paint, and it’s the texture they get from the paint that makes them so punchy.
One of the small sculptural works, though still as big as I am, appears to have two wings. It’s as if an angel has been flayed and what’s left of it has been put on display. It’s at his most macabre and death obsessed when Anish Kapoor is at his bloody best in this show, I just wish the kill count was a little higher.
Anish Kapoor: Painting is on at Modern Art Oxford until 13 February. Tickets are £7.50 for adults. Photo: Ben Westoby.