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VOID 1994

Anish Kapoor (1954 – )


110 cm diameter
Fibreglass and pigment
Accession number


Anish Kapoor started making ‘void’ pieces in 1985, subsequent to the positive geometric forms which had first brought him to prominence. In 1000 Names, for example, separate elements rest directly on the floor or walls, bright with powdered pigment; these were made as part of a daily production routine, and were united by the umbrella title. Repetition fulfills a kind of meditative role for Kapoor, and his idea of an ongoing series where each new thing is part of a whole continues across a variety of media: stone, steel, wax, resin, concrete. For Void the use of fibreglass, which is lightweight, endows a large-scale structure with great durability. Yet Kapoor’s engagement with architectural space is about the excavation of meaning – psychological, mythological or spiritual – beyond purely formal or material concerns.

Void is fixed to the wall so as to protrude into the exhibition space, but the join is hidden. It almost implies that the body of the sculpture might continue through to the other side. Unlike its near precedent My Body Your Body (1993), which adheres to the flat conventions of the picture plane, with its edges flush with the wall and its recess retreating into the wall, the bowl of Void projects out into the room in order to describe a recess. By cupping the space, it treats the space as an object itself. On space, the artist has remarked: ‘You can see it with your eyes. Then you can’t see it. Yet you know it. You know it with your body. Your imagination senses it. It’s not like air.’[1]

Kapoor plays with the optical slippage between a concave surface and a relief. From a side angle, shadow can trick the eye into picturing a convex form, whereas approached straight-on, the bowl envelops the viewer’s field of vision. As Homi K. Bhabha observes: ‘Kapoor’s voids, standing before us as sculpted objects – blue powders turning into the colour of far, fetching distance – are distinct from his creation of emptiness’.[2] The intense shade of the pigment here is redolent of Yves Klein blue. It is a shade that invokes ideas of oblivion and infinity, whilst leaning towards darkness. Kapoor has stated: ‘Freud looked at the back of the cave, and maybe we’re still looking at the back of the cave. Maybe there in the uncanny darkness down the toilet, under the bed, it is much more frightening and revealing, where things begin. I have made a lot of work with black and blue, because blue is a colour that much more deeply reveals darkness. From a phenomenological point of view your eyes can’t quite focus on blue.’[3]

Besides drawing inspiration from Yves Klein, and other Modernist heroes, Joseph Beuys and Marcel Duchamp, Kapoor’s work is fuelled by a problem in sculpture identified by Donald Judd, whereby material is taken as primary and colour as secondary. In Void the swathe of colour acts as something of a magic circle, or Mandala: the perfectly even expanse of colour encourages the eye to lose sense of the the bowl’s proportions as an object; its contours are not so easily navigable. Void encourages a shift of attention towards the optical and cerebral processes of focussing – and a heightened self-consciousness on the viewer’s part.

[1] Anish Kapoor in conversation with Donna de Salvo, in Anish Kapoor (Phaidon, London and New York 2009), p.404
[2] Homi K. Bhabha, ‘Anish Kapoor: Making Emptiness’, in Bhaba, Homi K. and Pier Luigi Tazzi, Anish Kapoor (Hayward Gallery, London 1998), p.17
[3] Interview with the artist by Marcello Dantas, in Anish Kapoor: Ascension (Centro Cultural Banco de Brasil, Rio de Janiro 2006)

Further reading
Hilty, Greg, Andrea Rose, Emma Williams and Clare Chapman (eds.), Anish Kapoor (British Council and Lisson Gallery, London 2010)
Anish Kapoor (Phaidon, London and New York 2009); texts by David Anfam, Johanna Burton, Richard Deacon and Donna De Salvo
Anish Kapoor (Royal Academy of Arts, London 2009); texts by Homi K. Bhabha, Jean de Loisy and Norman Rosenthal