Sir Antony Mark David Gormley OBE, the renowned British sculptor whose work can be found everywhere from Florence to Shanghai, recently put on one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of his career at the illustrious Royal Academy of Arts in London. As one of the UK’s most celebrated sculptors, the London institution was the perfect lieu to display works spanning Gormley’s impressive 45-year career. Following exhibitions by Chinese contemporary artist Ai WeiWei and German painter Anselm Kiefer, Gormley took to the RA’s Main Galleries with a series of works — old and new — that investigate the relationship of the human body and space. The monumental exhibition traces back to the early stages of the artist’s rise to international renown, from experiential installations to large-scale sculptures.
Comprising rarely seen works from the 1970s and 1980s, sketches, drawings, and recent sculptures, the exhibition is a veritable window into the artist’s mind. Gormley intended the exhibition to “encourage a present, first-hand experience” on the body and space through a series of environments that enhance awareness, alertness and sensorial space. The sculptures take on humanistic and spatial forms, from ultra-futuristic to rustic realism, with a natural and human-like effect created through the use of organic and industrial materials like iron, steel, seawater and clay.
In one gallery, Gormley takes advantage of the space to mount cast-iron figures perpendicularly on walls, hanging from the ceiling, and standing upright on the floor. Known as Lost Horizon I, the 2008 installation prompts viewers to consider “where human beings fit into the world”. Upon entering the room, the artist encourages the audience to “re-examine their place”, be it in society or within their own frame of mind. Another notable work on display is Clearing VII, an immersive installation made of coiled metal. The methodically engineered structure appears daunting at first regard, but eventually entices visitors to weave their way through before finding their own path out. On the project, Gormley said “I was trying to destroy the fixed coordinates of a room and make a space/time continuum […] The work consists of seven kilometres of raw metal rod that arcs from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, creating a three-dimensional drawing in space.” A discombobulated vector field of sorts, the work is meant to disrupt the authority of a single-point perspective, prompting the audience to adopt a different outlook on their visual field as they wind their way throughout.
On view from September 21st to December 3rd 2019, the exhibition ended just before the pandemic caused major art institutes worldwide to temporarily shut their doors. Gormley’s latest show, In Habit, is currently on display at the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris, France.