Prior to making the present series of etchings, Kapoor had already worked on two previous projects with Paragon. The most recent of these, published by Charles Booth-Clibborn in 1998, was Wounds and Absent Objects, a portfolio of technically extremely challenging pigment-transfer prints on gelatine tissue. Before that, in 1995, Kapoor produced a series entitled 15 Etchings, published as a portfolio.
In January 2007 he started working on a new series of etchings with Peter Kosowicz at Thumbprint Editions. The main bulk of the proofing took place in five sessions, whereby Kapoor would work in the printer’s studio for a couple of days, freely marking the films. From these films polymer gravure plates were made and first proofs printed. Kosowicz remembers that it was quite difficult to retain the soft edges of Kapoor’s forms whilst at same time keeping their tone strong. In a process spread over several months, additional spit-bite and aquatint plates were gradually added to some of the prints. As with the films, Kapoor marked the plates directly, dripping acid on to them. His visits to the studio became less frequent as the proofing progressed. From a group of over 20 proofs, Kapoor chose 15 images to be editioned. All the proofing was done in black and white. Two series of etchings were published as a result: History, a portfolio of 15 black-and-white etchings, and 12 Etchings, a portfolio of 12 colour etchings printed from a slightly reduced number of plates of History. The process of selecting the colours for 12 Etchings required an additional period of extensive proofing to achieve the specific tones he desired.
The monochrome etchings of History are an essay on the power of form and, as such, offer a unique insight into Kapoor’s visual language and his use of positive forms and negative spaces. While some seem purely abstract, others hover between abstraction and figuration. Amoebic shapes bring to mind images of primordial shape-shifting cells. Different forms and structures bounce off each other in an interplay that creates a feeling of depth and fluidity. There is, in these etchings, a distinct sense of movement, of form not arrested, but perhaps morphing arbitrarily into new shapes. Their physical presence elicits a tactile response, as Kapoor playfully uses contrast and light intensity to achieve a plastic corporeality. Looking at both the black-and-white and the colour etchings side by side allows for a deeper understanding of Kapoor’s colour sensibilities. The introduction of colour drastically changes our perception of these images, charging them emotionally. Soothing blue has a calming effect in some, whilst the use of energetic red in others adds a bodily and sexual element, insinuating blood, the womb and the female sexual organ. 12 Etchings illuminates a core aspect of Kapoor’s practice – the interaction of colour and form.