Blood gushes from Anish Kapoor’s new works on show at the Lisson Gallery in London. Not literally, but close enough in some cases of his silicone and fibreglass reliefs. A gauze dangles beneath the works and is spattered with red. His oil paintings, meanwhile, contain blood-red splashes and spurts emanating from pink and black cavities. To Kapoor, black is deathly, but similar to red, it is a colour of earth.
Kapoor is a British artist who is originally from Mumbai and is best known for his iconic, perception-manipulating sculptures. His painting practice spans four decades and is the main focus of this exhibition. His new paintings consider the ideas of ritual, the meaning of blood, spilled or otherwise, and as he puts it, “is associated with the abject and impure”. Specifically, the paintings show menstrual blood. This raises a big question that the artist asks himself: “Can a man deal with women’s issues? Is a man allowed to?”
Three groups of paintings are displayed in three rooms. The first room shows two sculptures while the third opens out into a courtyard featuring sculptures facing each other. The first room houses six paintings dripping, oozing and gushing dark red. Sprays of black and red paint on pink tumescent forms resemble failing organs.
At first, the paintings seem violent and alarming. The artist said that they can bring up thoughts around death or decay. While they certainly look messy, dirty and gross, the pain and sacrifice are channeled with acknowledgement of ritual. At the same time however, the style of painting is swift and energetic, pulsing the works with vitality.
Blood Solid(2018), resembles a penis gently releasing dark matter. Out of Me (2018), shows pus red. New Blood (2018) shows menstruation. The inspiration comes from “blood and organic matter” but despite the paint being applied and manipulated with hands and brush, the combining of different tones screams performative angst.
“Don’t think, just do,” is how Kapoor explains his process of making paintings. Comparing the paintings to the sculptures in the exhibition, one taking hours to produce while the latter taking months to carve, he cites Michelangelo’s belief in an inherent form being revealed slowly.