Anish Kapoor–Flashback at the YSP

On Saturday we went over to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – our second visit this year. The Miro exhibition is still on, but one of the main reasons for our visit this time, other than to get out on a nice day to enjoy some fresh air and exercise as well as some world class sculpture, was to see “Flashback”, the exhibition of works by Anish Kapoor in the Longside gallery in the park. The exhibition has been touring the country, and I saw it last year at Manchester City Art Gallery, but J hadn’t seen it and I thought it was definitely worth seeing again. There were some differences compared to the Manchester exhibition; there was no “pregnant wall” and there was a work that wasn’t on display in Manchester – a spinning bowl containing coloured water that reflected its surroundings creating interesting, swirling patterns – unfortunately I didn’t note down what it was called.

Photography wasn’t allowed in the gallery, but there are some pictures of the YSP exhibition on the artist’s website, here.

One of the things I like about Kapoor’s work is that it’s a blend of art, science and engineering. His major works, “Cloud gate” in Chicago and his “Orbit” tower at the London Olympics site are as much engineering constructions as works of art. The Flashback exhibits are interesting works of art, but examine them closely and some of them also illustrate some scientific principles.

To perceive shape and depth we need shadows and reflections. Kapoor has used a very dark blue pigment on two of his works to fool the eye. Void (1994) is a hemisphere attached to the wall. It looks as if it is a solid object, but can you be sure? Adam (1998-9) is a stone block, the height of a typical human. On the front there’s a dark blue rectangle that looks rather like a piece of felt that’s been stuck onto the surface of the stone. But is it?

In one corner of the gallery there are three large circular, concave mirrors, two of them silvered and the other a blood red colour. It’s a work entitled “Her Blood” (1998).

Image source:

The work provides a good demonstration of how concave mirrors display images. Stand close and the image (although distorted as they are not designed to provide a perfect reflection) is the right way up. Move away and when you’re a critical distance away the image flips so that it’s upside down. A good science lesson for art lovers! But there’s another surprise. It was interesting to watch people standing close to the mirrors who were obviously confused, looking around. They could hear voices although no one was near them. The mirrors were also parabolic sound mirrors. Sound waves were gathered by the dish and focused in front of the disc. It was particularly noticeable when the observer was stood at the critical distance – the focal point.

For me, the way the works were displayed meant they weren’t as effective as when they were shown in Manchester. The natural light pouring in through the large windows at the Longside gallery did spoil the optical effects associated with some of the exhibits to some extent. And Her Blood had their own room  in Manchester whereas at the YSP they were propped in a corner of the room and I don’t think this did the work justice. But I still enjoyed seeing the exhibition again. And I have to comment on the friendly and helpful staff in the gallery, one young lady in particular who took some time to talk to us about the work and share some stories about the exhibition.

4 thoughts on “Anish Kapoor–Flashback at the YSP

  1. As you know I was also at The YSP on Saturday. I wonder if you will appear in the background on any of my photos (when I get round to posting them!). It was a glorious day for a change and I didn’t find it at all crowded as I thought it would be.

    • If I did appear on any of your photos I’d have ruined them so you’ve probably deleted them! Seriously though I’ll have to have a close look when you post them on your blog or Flickr photostream.

      We also felt that the Park was quieter than we’d expected. It was much busier the previous two times we’ve visited. We talked about this and concluded that it was due to the increase in the car park charge that would have put off visitors who came to use the park rather than look at the art. One of the attendants also told us that previously, when the parking was pay and display, some visitors who knew it wasn’t enforced just didn’t pay up. With the new system they wouldn’t get away with it and so would, inevitably, be put off.

      We felt that this was both a good and a bad thing.
      During our last visits there were lots of families where the adults allowed their children to climb all over some of the sculptures despite notices saying they shouldn’t do this. We even saw some parents lifting their children up on to the Caro pieces. If these are discouraged it may not be a bad thing. This time we saw families with children who respected the art and the instructions. Some children were running in and out of the large Caro pieces but not climbing on them. So for this reason the increase putting off some visitors is probably a good thing.

      On the other hand some adults and children visiting the park to walk, run around or play, may become inspired by the art and start to take an interest in it. It’s a shame if the increase in the charge stopped this happening.

      Personally I don’t think £7-50 for a half or full day’s parking is unreasonable. You’d pay more than that in Manchester city centre for less time. And it’s still free to see the art including the temporary exhibitions.

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