Clemence Danon Boileau – You had to be there

Clemence Danon Boileau – You had to be there

CDB-familiere-etrangete

Familière Étrangeté, 2013 – ongoing, Pigment print on Japanese paper, 60x90 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

The ubiquity of images perpetuated by social networking inevitably reduces the value of photography. The fundamental nature of the expression describes its infinitely reproducible triteness. On a scale from light to darkness, photography, as if transparent, reveals not the description of the event, but the consciousness of the photographer’s feelings. Clémence Danon Boileau’s photographs bear witness to the set of choices she exercised in her everyday life. Her sombre use of colour and lighting speaks of a silent tragedy affecting every single one of us.

If we talk about the language of paintings and that of sculptures, we think of the composition, the interaction between the form and the space, and so forth. What then is the language of photography? Many look at it as the closest resemblance to reality, that it is essentially the language of events recorded, external to the photograph itself. How are we, the spectators, supposed to read a photograph, to access knowledge that goes beyond what is printed in front of us? Indeed, the arbitrariness of photography gives us only a glimpse of the operator’s reality through the shadow by the mediation of light. A Roland Barthes’ punctum, if you may. Thinking of the silhouettes in Clémence Danon Boileau’s Ni là, ni ailleurs series, a lot can be said in the silence of the night.

Her unceasing study of materials chases back to her initial motive in photography: as a way of remembering.

In a town southeast of Paris, Danon Boileau wanders about the familiar scenery of Fontainebleau. Through the viewfinder of her camera, she sees the forest and dirt roads not unlike those in Jitka Hanzlová’s photographs. The autumn leaves and dry bushes on the one side, and the bare branches of the towering trees on the other, evoke the presence of a sense of timelessness. It’s as if the wind was taken out of the equation in a vacuum of time, like a snap shot from a page in Wuthering Heights. Familière Etrangeté presents the uncanny – a paradox of intangibility and desire. Consider Danon Boileau’s photographs to be taken in the suspension of time, we retract the fourth dimension of our reality. Photographs are in their nature two-dimensional explaining Danon’s fervent research in giving substance to her work. Printed on a delicate Japanese paper, Danon Boileau gives her images physicality. The three-dimensional granulation of the paper renders a pointillist effect, drawing the spectator right in to the centre of the question: “What exactly am I seeing?” Her persistence in finding the right type of paper specifically for her different series grants her work a rarity value and transforms her personal observation into the spectator’s self-consciousness.

 

CDB-Familiere-etrangete-4

Familière Étrangeté, 2013 – ongoing, Pigment print on Japanese paper, 60x90 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

Completely self-taught, Danon Boileau picked up photography to construct her memory castle. The confidence in guaranteeing, through language, the things she sees in her daily life, is shattered in the mystery of photography. The familiarity of witnessing the modern phenomenon of smart phones, a portrait, a landscape in photographs illustrates the “striking instance of uncanniness” in Freud’s description. The strange faces, captured in Danon Boileau’s Dans le parking series during one of her many travels as a legal adviser to an NGO, are examples of her photographic sensitivity in revealing the modesty, innocence and purity of the ordinary. Achieving the technique of “Rembrandt lighting” without the constraints of a walled studio, Danon Boileau makes use of the raw light accessible in her surroundings. The features of her subjects are carved out resembling a Baroque painting. Yet, the spectator is more likely to be drawn to the intriguing details hidden in the shadows. The intensity in the everyman’s gaze is sharpened when the spectator is made aware of the soft, almost forlorn silhouette of which the explanation is absent in the photograph.

The spectrum of absence and presence holds the quantum of truth as to the photographer’s emotions as the shutter clicks. It’s not just black and white, but a testimony to an existence.  The many distractions in our circle of modern comfort complicate the sincerity of the artist. The construction of this reality in photography is dependent on the spectator’s recognition of these untold details. The great negative space in the image of a lady’s profile illuminated by the light of her telephone screen unveils the irony of globalised interconnectedness. The title of Ni là, ni ailleurs is evocative of the estrangement prevalent in our advanced society. This communication device brings us virtually closer to those who are far away but takes us further away from human contact. By removing this dependency, what is left is a morbid imagery reflected from the paleness of the lady’s skin. Danon Boileau’s subjects are neither here nor there.

 

CDB-Nilaniailleurs-4

Ni là, ni ailleurs, 2014, C-print, 50x70 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

It is this automatism in photography and in our age that has conceived the dualities of such paradox and its contradictions and we cannot possibly perceive its extent. The socio-cultural reading into a photograph may somehow overwrite the photographer’s intentions and give the referent an overwhelming authority. In Danon Boileau’s Essai sur la fécondation in vitro, her photographs are freed of the necessity of a denotation. “Strip of one’s flesh, the essence of being takes shape.” The ambiguity of the subject matter is impregnated by the darkness of backlight. Her unceasing study of materials chases back to her initial motive in photography: as a way of remembering. These photographs are experimental and high in contrast. Danon Boileau’s reality unfolds in front of the spectator’s eyes into an empathetic, beautiful mess of cognitive reconnection and fabricated memories.

 

CDB-Familiere etrangete-route copy

Familière Étrangeté, 2013 – ongoing, Pigment print on Japanese paper, 60x90 cm. Courtesy of the artist
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Life’s Requiem

Life’s Requiem

Shiota,_The Key in the Hand, 2015, photo by Sunhi Mang_16

The Key in the Hand, 2015, old keys, old wooden boat, red yarn, dimensions variable.
Japan Pavillion 56th Venice Biennale, Italy. Photo by Sunhi Mang. Courtesy of the Artist.

 

In Antiquity, knowledge of the body was restricted by religious beliefs and the ruling ethos. For centuries, several civilizations including the Greeks, Indians and the French, based part of their medical systems on the theory of “humorism”. Doctors considered that the body constituted 4 body fluids, black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood.

Whenever looking at the thread installations made by the Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota, the humorism theory sparks a light indicating a possible way to read to her enigmatic work. Her compositions are exclusively made with two colours: red and black, as she stated during a recent interview “these colours represent human life”. Hence, to the artist life emerges as a binary configuration, a continuous conflict between life and death. Like humorism, the world and human beings are composed of mysterious substances drifting from ourselves, fighting to unbalance us. The parallel with humorism reveals once again its accuracy when we observe the objects employed by the artist in installations such as Dialogue with absence and Connectedness to Life, the tubes and beds reverberate as components of the medical universe. Presumably, Shiota had a near death experience that for evermore marked her work. Human being’s ephemeral passing is enhanced by death beds and metaphors of nothingness in her constructions, even boats can be perceived as intermediary objects transporting to the afterlife. Greeks believed that in order to enter into the underworld, the death’s soul needed to cross the Styx river and pay a tribute to Charon. Therefore, boats for civilization, were a means of transportation also after death. For Shiota these objects exemplify the afterlife journey and life’s voyage during our time on earth.

Memory of the ocean, installation de Chiharu Shiota-ABM-Gabriel de la ChapellePossibly, less obscure is the meaning behind the colour red as it represents blood, human relationships, hope and vitality. It can also symbolise femininity. Although the artist doesn’t approve of the feminist perspective as an appropriate reading to her installations, her performance work such as Bathroom or Try and Go Home attests to the deep influence of artists like Ana Mendieta and Marina Abramovic. Moreover, dresses abound corroborating her interest in the female condition once again.  But, if she rejected the idea of labelling her installations as being “feminist”, it is due to her desire to create a universal artwork relating to a wider audience. Subjects such as loneliness, dreams and absence have gradually taken over, art pieces like During Sleep, In Silence, Letters of the Thanks or Farther Memory inquire on the human condition.

Dreams are indeed quintessential components in Shiota’s work, they are not only evoked in her titles but emerge as the core of her artistic practice. The father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud viewed them as coded messages coming from our unconscious, subtly sending information to a strict conscious layer. Unlike the Greeks and other philosophers, Freud considered them healers of traumas. Seemingly for Shiota her thread installations are cathartic experiences where reality and dreams are mixed creating new universes. The unconscious finds its voice and its form in her art pieces, and as the spectator walks through her immersive ecosystems he is confronted with outer dimensions, to intimate thoughts and emotions. Empty squares symbolise loneliness and absence, silence and meditative states that interrogate viewers on the essence of life.

Although the artist doesn’t approve of the feminist perspective as an appropriate reading to her installations, her performance work such as Bathroom or Try and Go Home attest to the deep influence of artists like Ana Mendieta and Marina Abramovic.

Even if Shiota’s artworks can be visceral and difficult to decipher, a particle of positivity glows and imbues her creations every time we see them. Impermanence and death is perceived not as the end but as the beginning of a new phase. Boats, suitcases and shoes are recurrent motifs embodying mobility and change, they also personify memories; yet another way of remaining alive. In 2015, for the Japanese Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, Shiota created her installation The Key in the Hand, the ceiling was flooded with red thread, keys were hanged and boats appeared to be anchored to the floor. According to the artist, keys personify trust and infinite possibilities, they reflect prosperous futures. At the end of the experience, a video where children were asked if they remembered something from their time in their mother’s womb was projected.

The installation and film delved into memory’s nature, as the children spoke, some of the memories recalled were mixed with imaginary scenarios and real experiences. Nevertheless, how do we discern reality from fantasy? In reality, life and death are connected dimensions and the more we experience Shiota’s work, the more we understand the dominating affinity between life and death. Doors are portals and promises of regeneration, of rejuvenation. When contemplating The Locked Room red thread appears as less threatening, as bridging experiences and rekindling memories.

Comparable to Chiharu Shiota’s body of work, firm defenders of humorism believed humors corresponded to the 4 elements and were somehow correlated to our temperament. Despite its inexactness, the theory conceptualized the world as an association rather than something detached. Layers are visibly knotted, once again dimensions are connected and the death-life cycle is restored.

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Celmins_A Painting in Six Parts

A Painting in Six Parts, 1986-87/2012-16.
Oil on canvas, six parts. Overall dimensions 38 x 645 cm.
© Vija Celmins – Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Greek philosopher Plato condemned painting and other artistic disciplines.  According to him, they emulated reality deluding the spectator as to what he called the “actual world”. Imitation duped and pulled us away from the essence of things, so was the argument of Plato. Yet, when someone observes a painting from Vija Celmins and discovers that the canvas in front of their eyes is not a photograph but a meticulous composition, we feel more thrilled than mislead by her work.

At the beginning of her career, Celmins’s paintings depicted a reality that was close to the cultural scenario of her time: televisions, airplanes, bombs and everyday objects dominated her imagination. Suspended Plane portrays what seems to be a war plane from World War II, a possible reminder of the Vietnam war. But soon after the early 1970’s, space exploration and ocean waves became predominant in her work. Culture and any suggestion of humanity was completely erased from her paintings replaced by sober compositions depicting nature. The critic Carter Radcliff even compared her passion of nature’s portrayal to the urge felt by the Romantics who conceived the latter as a deity. One is indeed amazed by Celmins’s narrow selection of subjects and her obsessiveness when constructing her paintings; the ocean’s infinity and the vastness of night skies are sufficient enough to nourish her body of work. To her, repetition is not equivalent to cloning, for every painting and drawing has its own life. Moreover, Plato’s judgment on painting and other mimetic disciplines wasn’t perhaps directed towards the painter. In the philosopher’s eyes, the audience was poorly considered as he believed they were easily duped. In Celmins’s case, the inattentive spectator is likely to think he’s beholding a scientific photograph, nevertheless, when he approaches the work the true nature of the flat surface reveals itself. Although she plays with us, her viewers, she never doubts we will discover the truth beneath her creations: Celmins’s objective is to enlighten us about what dominates our view and how it works.

Paintings then, appear less cold despite the monochromatic palette, the eager spectator can recognize Celmins’s precise expression and expansive compositions.

Observing is crucial to grasp the artist’s work; details are what separates photography from her paintings. “The camera sees everything and understands nothing”, so were the words of Nadar describing the camera’s lack of aptitude to perceive the world affectedly. What Celmins’s intricate compositions do to our vision is to paralyze it, stillness is requested, our bodies can gravitate but our gaze must not. As we contemplate our mind is freed from the burden of relentless time and movement. Any reference from the outer world is completely blurred by the soothing ocean. The paintings therefore, do not suggest any activity, her drawings are not fragments of time but fragments coming straight from Celmins’s imagination. Untitled (Ocean) mimics the wave’s movement. However, the frame together with the quietness of the composition exposes the canvas’s essence. Other creations such as Untitled (Sequoia and Moon) or Jupiter Moon – Constellation juxtapose two images, a creative process she repeats several times. Constellation – Uccello, is one of the most prolific examples of this operation. On the one hand, we are confronted with an image of the universe painted by the artist, on the other, a found image by Uccello depicting a three-dimensional chalice highlights the object’s volume. The concept of space is seen through different angles, via the sole association of images, Celmins opens a discussion on how linear perspective monopolized our sight.

Although inspired by photographs, her artistic gesture transforms the mechanical vision into affective configurations. Paintings then, appear less cold despite the monochromatic palette, the eager spectator can recognize Celmins’s precise expression and expansive compositions. Despite creating two dimensional structures, the artist conveys certain depth through the texture of the objects. Haptic was the word used by Cécile Whiting to describe the effect produced in our eyes. When moving closer in the direction of the painting, the eyes can almost caress the painting. Celmins “reconfigures the visual experience in an era of space exploration,” modern man’s cyborg vision transcends to another dimension. Her paintings revive our senses as well as our mind. Contrary to what we are taught, it is not the eye that governs but the mind that arranges our world. Celmins creates an intimate bond with her audience bringing the spectator closer to her paintings and to her.  

 

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Chul Hyun Ahn

Born in Busan, South Korea, artist Chul Hyun Ahn received his bachelor degree from the Fine Arts Department of the Chugye University of Arts in Seoul; he later pursued his academic studies in the United States graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore as well as from the Mount Royal School. Chul Hyun Ahn’s creations explore infinity’s form, he uses mirrors, neon lights and other found objects in order to agitate his viewers. Intricate and sober compositions trick his spectators guiding them into unknown dimensions where bodily figures are transformed into ethereal matter. He has exhibited at numerous art fairs such as the KIAF in South Korea, ARCO Madrid; the Venice Biennale in 2013 and more. His first solo exhibition was at the C. Grimaldis Gallery in Baltimore in 2002 where he displayed his work Visual Echoes for the first time. His art pieces are found in collections like the American Society of Nephrology, Mr. & Mrs. Don Sanders private collection, the Borusan collection in Turkey, the Delaware Art Museum and Borusan Contemporary at Istanbul.

 

Visual Echo Experiment, 2005,
laminated wood, mirrors, lights, 9 pieces, 79 x 79 x 12.5 cm each

Berndnaut Smilde

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde explores sacred architectures and day spaces through his photographs. Nimbus, his most acclaimed project until this day, is a series where he creates ephemeral interior clouds with vapor and a smoke machine. The phenomenon lasts no more than 20 seconds but it is kept alive through the photographic lens and its reproduction. His ephemeral sculptures emphasize time’s subjectivity and the dichotomy between lasting sculptural constructions and his transitory clouds. Smilde studied Fine Art at the Minerva Academy in Groningen, he also holds an MA from the Frank Mohr Institute. His works have been exhibited in art fairs such as Art Brussels, Bologna Art Fair, Amsterdam Art Fair and others. His first solo exhibition was held by the MOOT Gallery in Nottingham and since then his work has been showcased in Shanghai, Taipei, Washington, Lima and other cities around the globe. He took part in numerous residency programmes such as FORM in Western Australia, Irish Museum Residency of Modern Art, and so on. His work is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, Saatchi Gallery, Cornell University collection, Frans Hals Museum and more.

 

Nimbus Portlandplace, 2014,
digital c-type print on aluminium, 125 x 186 cm, 75 x 112 cm.

Anne Lindberg

Primal emotions and human cycles are the nucleus of Anne Lindberg’s work. Her geometric and her thin brushstrokes are at the origin of colourful abstract canvases. Abstraction, according to the artist, represents “a strong impulse to speak from a deep place within herself about what is private, vulnerable, fragile, and perceptive to the human condition.” She graduated from the University of Miami and later received a Master in High Arts from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Her first solo exhibition was in 1990 at the Artemisa Gallery in Chicago. Moreover, she received several grants including the National Endowment for the Art Fellowship in 1993, the ArtsKC Fund Inspiration grant in 2008 and in 2009, the Lighton International Artist Exchange Grant in 2011 and many more. Her work is part of collections such as the Detroit Institute of Art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the Federal Reserve of Kansas collection, International Shibori collection in Nagoya, Nevada Museum of Art, and other private collections. Lindberg works mainly with oil but she recently turned to the sculptural real and ever since continues to develop in this field.   

 

Drawn pink, 2012, Egyptian cotton head, staples, 35 by 6 by 10 feet.Photography by Derek Porter

Drawn pink, 2012, Egyptian cotton head, staples, 35 by 6 by 10 feet.
Photography by Derek Porter

 

Damian Loeb

Damian Loeb is a self taught American painter. His realistic and suave images captivate the viewer’s attention, as the latter approaches the canvas, he realises that what is in front of him is not a photograph but a delicate painting. Intimate interiors, female bodies and galaxies are the painter’s favorite subjects. Light’s precision and reflection renders his oil paintings incredibly vivid, painting these images enables him to “find ways to compose and capture (…) very specific personal still life.” Loeb’s first solo gallery show was in 1999 at the Mary Boone Gallery, he has continued to exhibit in galleries and museums such as the Kunsthalle in Hamburg, at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Connecticut, at the White Cube Gallery in London and more.  

 

Damian Loeb Kailua - 48 x 48in - 2016, oil on linen large

Kailua – 48 x 48in – 2016, oil on linen large

Mihoko Ogaki

Mihoko Ogaki is a female artist born in Toyama, Japan, her artistic practice ponders on metaphysical, ontological and cosmic subjects. Her series Milky Ways, constituted by a luminescent sculpture shining from within, projects its interior light to the rest of the room. The piece’s role seems to question our species origin and to demonstrate our relationship with the rest of the universe. Ogaki studied at the Aichi University of Fine Art and Music graduating from the oil painting course and she also studied sculpture at the Kunstakademie of Düsseldorf. Her first solo exhibition was in 2006 at the Galerie Voss in Düsseldorg. Ever since the beginning of her artistic career, she has won several prizes such as the first prize in the Art Bank Award of 2008 and the Audience’s Prize at the Baden Museum in 2003. She has also won scholarships given by the Prime Minister of Westphalia and the Düsseldorf culture department.

 

Milky Way - Breath 02, 2010, installation view, FRP, LED with dimmer, 190.5 x 107 x 108 cm.

Milky Way – Breath 02, 2010,
installation view, FRP, LED with dimmer, 190.5 x 107 x 108 cm.
Anish Kapoor – “It waves you to a more removed ground”

Anish Kapoor – “It waves you to a more removed ground”

Descent Into Limbo, Havana, 2016, fiberglass and pigment,diameter 3 m, unique work.Courtesy the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing /Les Moulins / Habana. Photo: Paola Martinez Fiterre

At the beginning, there was Chaos. It carries not the contemporary connotation of disorder or mayhem, instead, it points to the void state prior to the creation of the cosmos, the non-being moving emptiness from the original separation of heaven and earth. Anish Kapoor shows a deep interest for the proto-experience in his artworks. The hollowness and chaos that engender darkness came to be before any intervention. Descent into Limbo, Havana (2016) sits as a black circular surface at the centre of the Galleria Continua space in Cuba. To borrow Heidegger’s rumination on The Thing (1950), the “thingness” of Kapoor’s Descent into Limbo, Havana is its uncanny flatness, which reveals to be a three-dimensional crater on closer inspection. This illusion adds other folds into the decortication of what this thing is: the unilateral darkness of the black pigment eliminating the sensation of depth and the concrete floor beholding the work. The realisation of the impossibility of the void in this work is all the more emphatic as it almost looks like it is created by an intense concentration of gravitational force, as if it were a self-made object. This foreign creation is the alterity so relevant in our society and resonates consistently throughout Kapoor’s oeuvre.

What is this desire of assimilation? There is an intolerance towards otherness that compels us to fuse into one body. The explanation may be rather biblical. Consider Kapoor’s The Healing of St. Thomas (1989). A lone red gash on the pristine white wall achieves the most visceral mirror-touch synaesthesia-like effect not unlike The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (1603) by Caravaggio. “The metaphorical language is that he [St. Thomas] reaches out to touch what is apparently an illusion only to find reality.” However, Kapoor’s work lacks the immediate impact of contact, modern etiquettes dictate that one may not touch the exhibited artworks. “The eye and the hand need each other. Once he has touched the wound, a kind of healing takes place in Thomas. He is healed of his doubt.” If that is so, when does the healing start in the spectator who remains in his position to spectate?

I have always been drawn to a notion of fear, towards a sensation of vertigo, of falling, of being pulled inwards.

Again, what does it mean in Anish Kapoor’s term, then, the language of human senses in the experience of art? “I have always been drawn to a notion of fear, towards a sensation of vertigo, of falling, of being pulled inwards. This is a notion of the sublime which reverses the picture of union with light. This is an inversion, a sort of turning inside-out. This is a vision of darkness. Fear is a darkness of which the eye is uncertain, towards which the hand turns in hope of contact and in which only the imagination has the possibility of escape.” In summary, Kapoor heavily prioritises what he calls the “psychological potentiality” of the subject. It is more interesting to notice the artist’s propensity towards dark colours, especially the colour red, which he says has the darkest dark hue, darker even than black. Colour is inextricably linked to Kapoor’s artistic expression. It is our conditioned perception of certain colours and its ability to “occupy the whole vision” that brings out this looming anxiety when we are at a Kapoor exhibition. Fear in many of his works with red pigment like Unborn (2016) at MACRO comes from the human condition of knowing intimately what the colour red signifies. It is the source of life that runs through our veins. The darkness of red, on the other hand, alludes to the ultimate end, a bodily fluid devoid of oxygen.

Monochrome (Majik Blue), 2016, fiberglass and paint, 188 x 188 x 40 cm, unique work.
Courtesy the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing /Les Moulins / Habana.
Photo: Paola Martinez Fiterre

In the Freudian mental iceberg, fears, violent motives, and irrational wishes occupy the unconscious level of the human mind. By excavating materials, Kapoor elucidates the unconscious. Think about the word “to excavate”, it entails a two-part process: the hollowing and the removing of substance. The first part results in the emptiness of the object while Kapoor presents an antithesis to the second part: the excavated material is unseen unlike Sekine Nobuo’s Phase-Mother Earth (1968).  The artist’s non-objects are located essentially in the interstitial space between the present and the absent, the psychological and the physical, the visible and the invisible.

These non-objects can characteristically take different forms – between works or within themselves. Take for example, Monochrome (Majik Blue) (2016) and Monochrome (Lake Violet Pearl) (2015). The placement of the two works, one opposite the other, on top of the fact that they are coated with paint, removes the phenomenological reflection of his famous mirror works like Mirror (Black to Red) (2016) and forces a horizontal spatial interaction between the concavities and between the artworks and the spectator. By moving from one end to the other within this imperceivable tube-like void, the reverberation contains and the sound of the steps internalize any emotions and perceptions of temporality into a performance staged by the artist using “the architecture as a metaphor for the self”.

Kapoor, like a Shakespearean fool, plays on the transitional experience that seems to “reverse, affirm and then negate.” Corner disappearing into itself (2015) are three valves of gold fibreglass folding and collapsing into itself. By doing so, the material creates a non-materialised passage to a space beyond the corner, beyond the architecture. Human perception focuses on the one-point perspective. Imagine a tunnel from the opening of the golden valves, surely it leads to a single point of convergence by extension. Psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott suggests that a transitional object “symbolises the union of the two now separate things… at the point in time and space of the initiation of their state of separateness.”

This brings us back to Chaos. Anish Kapoor’s intention is philosophical and mystical. His art raises more questions than answers. Yet every single darkness he employs transports the spectator back to the point in time in the first chapter of Genesis. A point where there is no form, no distinction and no intolerance. As the first artist and the fourth laureate of the Genesis Prize, Anish Kapoor’s decision to shine light upon the current refugee crisis inevitably creates a powerful narrative for this point of convergence despite his effort to not emphasise on one in his art.

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