CARAVAN's Founding President, Paul-Gordon Chandler, is providing a series of reflections on works of art along the themes of “Inspiring, Transcendent, Contemplative, Enriching, and Imaginative.” Below he focuses on “Imaginative Art.”
Anish Kapoor, Yellow, 1999, Fiberglass and pigment, 6×6×3 m
Over forty years ago, the English rock musician John Lennon (of Beatles fame) inspired his listeners through a song titled “Imagine,” to imagine a world of peace, without materialism, without borders separating nations and without religion separating peoples. It is a song that speaks to a deeply held longing that many have for our world.
As we prepare to enter a new year, I reminded of the imaginative artwork of one of my favorite contemporary sculptors, the celebrated Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor. Many in the US know of him as the creator of “The Bean” sculpture (officially titled “Cloud Gate), a magical public sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park.
Anish Kapoor’s sculptural work invites us to enter into a land of imagination, which can provide a sense of profound hope regarding both our collective and individual futures. Sharing his perspective on the role of artists, Kapoor says, “Artists don't make objects. Artists make mythologies.” Kapoor’s work exudes a strong belief in the ability of art to facilitate an entrance into the imagination, and even into what is often understood as the spiritual dimension. Standing in front of his sculptures, there is a sense of being caught up into a relationship with the infinite. Reflecting on his art, Kapoor shares, “I think I am attempting to dig away at - without wanting to sound too pompous - the great mystery of being.” He goes further, saying, “We live in a fractured world. I've always seen it as my role as an artist to attempt to make wholeness.”
Many of Kapoor’s sculptures have a hole or entrance area in them, seemingly offering a portal into another world. The mid-20th century English writer C.S. Lewis described imagination as “the organ of meaning.” And Kapoor’s sculptures remind me in many ways of Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia,” where young Lucy, climbs through a wardrobe and enters the magical and mysterious world of Narnia.
Kapoor’s sculpture entitled “Yellow” is an inspiring example of this. I first experienced it at an exhibition at London’s Royal Academy of Art in September 2009. It is a six-meter-squared installation of primary yellow pigment with a central convex void. The giant circle-based work up on the wall that seems to disappear backwards into it, visually draws you in. The space is inverted, something one is not fully aware of until standing directly in front of it. There is a softness to the gentle curve of the opening and the submersion in the monochrome color yellow is strangely both calming and slightly bewildering, imposing a powerful effect on the body and spirit.
In “Yellow,” Kapoor challenges traditional notions of sculpture through a physical and spiritual engagement with scale, space, and color. Hence, the work provides the viewer with a spiritual experience, as it dwarfs the viewer and changes visual perception, occupying both physical and mystical space.
Standing in front it, you feel you can almost walk right into a new and yet unknown world of existence. I am reminded of the words of William Blake, the 18th century artist-poet, known to also evoke the imagination; “The world of imagination is the world of eternity.” As we prepare for 2024, let us remember that we are offered a hope-filled opportunity to enter into a future that is in sacred harmony with our inner selves and the world around us.
We are all invited to enter the portal of hope this coming year. Take hope!