In the numerous readings of Anish Kapoor's artwork since the mid 1990s, there has been an consistent intellectual curiosity over the paradoxical coexistence of spirituality and corporality. For the former, the artist's cultural background of Eastern origin has been much taken into account. More importantly, from the Western metaphysical conception, it is the philosophical notion of sublime that has been at the core of theoretical references. On the other hand, regarding of the corporeal nature of his work, the postminimal aesthetic is grounded for its material and multilateral sensations. For this connection, the psychoanalytic concept of the uncanny is provided for the work's most crucial referential point.
These very different-almost opposite-two natures of Kapoor's artwork have been constituted together from his early period. In other words, it is this paradox of 'material immateriality' or 'immaterial materiality' that makes his work constantly intriguing for the critical mind. Nonetheless, the preference of most critics for immaterial references supersedes the physical and sexual associations that is evoked by his work. The fact that these less cerebral aspects of the work often remains understated while they constitute significant parts of the work. This paper thus purports to pay more attention to and thus enlighten this rather repressed nature of Kapoor's work. It is because this primary physical and psychological sensation is more relevant to what is regarded as the postminimal experience in contemporary art. This can be said the main theme of this paper.
‘Postminimalism’ according to Robert Pincus-witten, “actively rejects the high formalist cult of impersonality”. He coined this term in 1977, shedding light on it in his book Postminimalism, saying that “more recent artistic emphasis in almost directly opposed to the formalist values of the mid-sixties.” Assimilated to emerging social aesthetic imperatives, what Pincus-witten thought as 'postminimal' is referred to those art activities stressing the artistic persona and psyche, stripped bare as it were. However, I find Irving Sandler’s explanation among several most useful for comprehending Kapoor's work when he analyses Morris's work. Stressing differences from making minimal sculpture, he said that “Morris made a work more physical, the process of the work's ‘making itself’ had to be emphasized.” Whereas minimalist works reflects a geometric abstract style and its rigorous external geometry is based on certain forms and fixed structures, postminimal art is self-generating against any predestined forms or objects, aiming to the non-fixed state of the formless.
When we think of Kapoor's work in relation to postminimal quality as such, the significance of its corporality and materiality is highlighted in relation to the uncanny. It is in this respect that his work is more relevant to the present time, contemporary aesthetics. Interestingly, the subtle relation between the uncanny and the sublime has been recognised since the eighteenth-century. It is well known that the uncanny has taken on crucial psychological connotations with the help of Sigmund Freud. He mentioned ‘intra-uterine existence’ in his elaboration of the uncanny that is developed in the Matrixial theory of Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger as I delineated in the paper. However, it is not much recognised that the uncanny was associated with the obscure side or the nocturnal face of the sublime by Edmunde Burke. What is suggested by this is that the sublime and the uncanny are internally related against the binary opposition of the spiritual and the physical, that is the way Kapoor's work is seen.
Whereas the sublime is referred to a quality of vast open spaces, the uncanny is more frequently associated with cramped and dark interiors, whose prototypes are the haunted house, the cellar, the coffin and the womb. These two notions are thus closely related to the subject's perception of spaces but in slightly different ways. Anthony Vidler puts this rather effectively, saying that “the vertigo of the sublime” is placed side by side with “the claustrophobia of the uncanny”. As these two are not to be separated at the empirical domain of the subject's perception, what we see in Kapoor's work as the cerebral in the western metaphysical tradition and the visceral in the stream of postminimalism cannot be parted in any designated ways. In such paradoxical aesthetics, this paper purports to shed light on the latter that is rather repressed but more suggestive to the current issues of the contemporary art discourse.