Antony Gormley, an internationally renowned sculptor, with works recognised all across the world, from the Northern UK coastlines, to Manhattan skylines. Gormley has now taken over the main gallery at The Royal Academy with his latest sculptural installation. The exhibition explores Gormley’s diverse range of materials, including organic, industrial and elemental materials. The installation focusses on the human body, and its sensory experiences. Gormley strongly believes in the body as a ‘place’; a place of worship, a place of experience, consciousness and feeling. The exhibition is a totally immersive experience, inviting each sense and heightening ones attention to the body and its surroundings throughout.
From start to finish, the exhibition had the hairs on my neck on end. Upon entry into the grand courtyard of the RA, a small cast iron baby lies alone (“IRON BABY”, 1999), curled up on the ground. The sculpture is quite easily missed and very lowkey. I actually attended an early evening session, so it was darkening and it was pouring with rain, making this sculpture vulnerable and thus quite thought provoking. The sculpture had me reflecting on current world crises. I thought of news images of children of Grenfell tower in 2017, I thought of the children of Syria and the refugee crisis, I thought of the future generations that must deal with the detrimental effects of our elongated damage to the environment. The cast was based upon Gormley’s daughter at just six days old, in a position representing need of shelter, sustenance and peace. The sculpture attempts to make us aware of our precarious position in relation to the future of our planet. I personally found it very efficient in doing so.
CLEARING VII, 2019. Another significant installation was the room filled with squiggle-like aluminium tube, coiled and twisted from floor to ceiling and across the entirety of the room. Part of the experience was following the walls around the sculpture, stepping over and ducking under sections of it, making this a piece that really got one thinking of their surroundings and their body in relation, allowing the viewer to really become part of this dynamic artwork. The sculpture is described as a ‘drawing in space’, and visually it really is an expressive graphite scribble in true form. It uses approximately 8 kilometres of aluminium square tubing.
Matrix III, 2019. Gormley’s done it again with another room-filling installation. A huge visual steel mesh labyrinth up in the air so one views from underneath. The cage contains a small chamber within, said to be the size of an average sized bedroom, Gormley sees this void as ‘the space of dreaming‘. The Matrix confused my eyes, as I struggled to perceive what was close and far within the dense mass of recycled steel. This piece was designed for the gallery.
A fairly iconic Gormley sculpture, is the life-size casting of his own body. These cast iron figures have been seen worldwide, from the Witterings beaches, Crosby beach of Liverpool, and overseas to New York rooftops. LOST HORIZON I, was one of my favourite rooms in the exhibition, it reminded me of my childhood. Having family in Liverpool, I went up a lot as a child, we would walk along the huge beach, Crosby Beach, and look at what I saw then as HUGE statues of men, but now see as normal sized. This work is from the 1980’s when Gormley did a lot of work with cast iron, offering durability outdoors. The figures of Lost Horizon I were made from six different moulds all in similar poses, I didn’t know this at the time of viewing but I did notice slight discrepancies between the figures and wondered whether this was the case. The figures are arranged in all sorts of angles and orientations, on the ceiling, on the walls, this is designed to defy the gravitationally-defined horizontal way of viewing ourselves and other humans.
CAVE, 2019. A piece the size of a house, made from dark tunnels and rooms that you navigate through relying on our senses alone, to feel through using the sides of the walls and ceiling. This sculpture is an immense experience, not one for the claustrophobic or faint hearted. The architecture of the piece is built upon vast geometric cubes, that echo and vibrate when inside. Gormley believes that we most readily experience our body as a place when our eyes are closed. Apparently, from a distance, the CAVE is itself a representation of a human figure made up of cubic forms.
It was a fascinating exhibition, really truly awesome. Of course, I have only touched on a few pieces that I really interacted with emotionally. Additionally, there was a room filled with his sketchbooks, this almost gave an insight into the creatively abstract and intellectual way in which his mind cogs turn. I have to say, being so fond of Gormley’s work, and having seen some of his outdoor works, I found there was slightly less work exhibited than I had anticipated. Despite this, I would highly recommend going, though the exhibition is close to finished. The exhibition is on until the 3rd of December (2019). Tickets can be booked through this link here https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/antony-gormley , or alternatively visit some of his extraordinary works such as ‘Angel of the North’, located in Gateshead or ‘Another place’, on Crosby beach, Liverpool.
All photos taken by me, IPHONE 7 quality – so not amazing… Excluding IRON BABY photo, this is taken from an unknown source online, in no way am I claiming the image as my own.