Art: Antony Gormley

Another artist that does not need an introduction (particularly in the UK), the Antony Gormley exhibition is being held at Main Galleries in the Royal Academy of Arts until 3 December 2019.

From the British coastline to the rooftops of Manhattan, Antony Gormley’s sculptures are recognised across the world. With work from his 45-year career alongside major new installations created for our galleries, we present his most ambitious exhibition in more than ten years. – RA

Antony Gormley

Gormley is an internationally renowned sculptor, with a focus on the human body, though never really portrayed in its realistic form like Da Vinci. Instead, for Gormley, the body is a “vessel for feeling” and describes it as a “place”.

He has stretched the understanding of our bodies and makes one rethink how we interact with the world. I think the video below summarises succinctly what he is trying to do and captures how his works can make one feel, in particular, the description that his works lead us to a “meditative, if not, worshipful” state is interesting. Perhaps, his most famous work is the Angel of the North, which is a public sculpture in Gateshead in the North of England.

Guide to the exhibition

The exhibition showcased Gormley’s use of elemental and industrial materials, including (a lot of) iron, steel, hand-beaten lead, seawater and clay. His work is raw and lacking in colour as if creating his own dystopia.

  • The Courtyard: Before you enter the exhibition, do look out for my favourite piece of the whole exhibition is the Iron Baby (1999). This lifesize form of a baby curled up on its front is based on Gormley’s six-day-old daughter. She is vulnerable to the elements to remind us of our precarious position in relation to our planetary future, which is something we have to face and tackle.
  • Room 1Slabworks (2019) uses building blocks made of steel, the industrial works look like a pile of artfully placed lego pieces, but as you walk and look closer, each reveals their human form.
  • Room 2: This room showcases his early experimental works made in the 1970s and early 80s. The piece to look out for his other infamous materials he uses for his art – bread. Mother’s Pride V (first made in 1982), is an outline of the body where the void was created by the simple act of eating.
  • Room 3: Probably one of the more advertised pieces of the exhibition – this is something that I have never seen before, but a whole room filled from floor to ceiling of an 8km coiled aluminium tube. Clearing VII (2019) is to challenge the boundaries of sculpture. To get to Room 4 the viewer has to navigate through the tubes – I challenge you on how to get through without touching the artwork!
  • Room 4: A single life-size body form, with its head, bent, as if in contemplation. The use of space is interesting in this room as if the individual is seeking solace.
  • Room 5: One of my favourite rooms in the exhibition, pushing the boundaries of the space within the RA, this vast hall houses the Matrix III (2019) is a vast cloud of recycled (98%) steel mesh. Truly mesmerising.
  • Room 6: Three highly tensioned steel bars zip through several rooms of the gallery. Though extremely abstract, it is one of the more striking pieces of the exhibition, Co-ordinate VI (2019). Passing through several rooms, you wonder where the line starts and whether it ever stops as it disappears into the walls and through the roof.
  • Room 7: I really enjoyed the sketches in this room; it is the only room in the exhibition where there wasn’t a sculpture. Some of the drawings were chaotic, something similar to what you see in a scary movie after the kid is possessed by a spirit, yet was a very interesting insight into the development of Gormley’s ideas.
  • Room 8: Lost Horizon I (2008), where the floating cast iron bodies. The purpose of this room is to deny us the horizontal line in which we orient our lives it was disconcerting for myself!
  • Room 9: Body and Fruit (1991/93) These two big hanging “fruits” originated from the artist’s body, held tightly in a foetal position and then using wooden batons project outwards, which is then cast in iron, to form the shape we see it in this room (really weird to be honest). It is suspended just inches from the floor, emphasising its stillness in contrast to our movement around them.
  • Room 10: probably my least favourite room, these Concrete Works (1990-93), are large concrete blocks, each concealing a void in the form of the body.
  • Room 11: A spectacular piece Cave (2019)is an architectural sculpture. The vastness of this piece just blew my mind. At the doorway, it is possible to enter into the cave or it is possible to walk around the structure – I would recommend doing both. It is supposedly a body crouched on its side but I did not manage to see it on the day…Made from rolled steel; the form and differing lines just meant that every angle was a beautiful piece of art. I am very interested to learn how the artist managed to get it within the space of the RA, please do let me know if you know how he did it!
  • Room 12: More drawings, with some made from blood.  Look out for the two sculptures made of hand-rolled clay on the floor!
  • Room 13Host (2019)gives another experience, similar to the installation 20:50 (1987) by Richard Wilson. You stand to look through a doorway, to another directly on the other side, and it is filled with clay and seawater. The water reflects the door and the sky roof above; reflecting the changing light and gradually transforming.

Verdict

An immersive experience, Gormley’s art made me reflect on my body and provoked thoughts on how I interacted in the world. The industrial materials used, as I mentioned before, seems to reflect another life – a dystopian world. Recommend this exhibition for his fans and sculpture lovers. However, it may not be for everyone. Though I found it interesting, after walking through the rooms, there a slight sadness when I realised my favourite piece was free to see in the courtyard…

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x