Anish Kapoor provides a little light relief for visitors to Kensington Palace Gardens
London is arguably one of the greenest cities on the planet, a fact intrinsic to Thomas Heatherwick's recent dandelion-esque creation for the Shanghai World Expo which mapped out the interlocking network of tree-lined streets that make up the urban jungle that is England's capital. As one wanders through the city of London so little pockets of quintessential countryside appear, nestled between ambitious steel and glass towers and traditionally elaborate red-brick dwellings.
One such pocket is Kensington Gardens. A tranquil expanse of grass and lakes, at this time of year the Gardens are transformed into a blended mass of bronze, ochre, tan and burgundy as the conkers ripen and leaves begin to turn.
Divisive designer Anish Kapoor has been working with The Royal Parks and the Serpentine Gallery to intensify this altered experience for the benefit of the general public, displaying a collection of his highly reflective sculptures together in London for the very first time. Each of the four artworks has been constructed from stainless steel, positioned either to mirror the natural beauty of the sky and landscape or to distort the image of passers-by.
Entering from the direction of Kensington Palace itself, the first sculpture one is faced with is Sky Mirror, Red 2007, a circular disc of shimmering red steel that appears to float on the surface of The Round Pond. Regardless of the angle of approach, the mirror shows nothing but the sky tainted a deep, deep red - almost grotesque in its intensity.
Slightly further on is Non-Object (Spire) 2007, like an abstract, fluid trumpet turned to face the ground, its needle-thin end saluting the sun. This sculpture is roped off to the public but remains close enough to reflect flashes of the two dozen cameras aimed in its direction every few minutes. Comparatively sleeker in nature to its wine-red neighbour, Non-Object (Spire) reflects the park-life in 360 degree form, capturing the overhanging leaf structures in stunning elongated deformations. Its form enables a sandwich-effect reflection - a filling of sky encased in snapshots of the treetops.
Across The Longwater is a third sculptural piece of impressive size and effect. Similar to Sky Mirror Red, Sky Mirror 2006 is an angled disc titled towards the heavens, kept in a classic silver tint. Its immense diameter not only magnifies but intensifies the delicate hue of the London sky as it shifts from grey to blue and back again.
Facing towards the Serpentine Gallery is Kapoor's final and possibly most popular piece, C-Curve 2007; a gently sweeping convex mirror that twists one's reflection by 180 degrees so that it appears that world has been turned upside down, hence the title of the display, ‘Turning the World Upside Down'. On the day that I visited the Gardens, it was this piece that attracted the most attention - as the images clearly demonstrate - as children flocked to laugh and point at their distorted reflections in the glittering curve.
Kapoor's expressive yet familiarly simple designs add another dimension to the picturesque Kensington Gardens, appropriately filling the void left by Jean Nouvel's scarlet Serpentine Pavilion which is currently being dismantled. Whilst his warped style may not be to everyone's taste, this series of contemplative sculptures appeals to a broad audience and aims to initiate an intensified relationship between city dwellers and the natural environment - a connection so often lost in such high density urban settings.