LONDON – The human body and its relationship with the surrounding space is the focus of an exhibition of works by British sculptor Antony Gormley.
The enormous dimensions and structural complexity of the works presented Tuesday at the Royal Academy of London invite visitors to interact and use all their senses to appreciate the different forms, organic, industrial elements and textures of his works.
Tim Marlow, the RA’s artistic director, said: “What it isn’t is a retrospective and what it is is a collaboration between a major artist and an institution, between an artist and his extensive and talented studio and the Royal Academy staff.
“But also it’s the show that can only be made with an artist in his or her lifetime which is what we want to do at the Royal Academy when we work with living artists.
“We want to try and avoid curating a show as if it’s a retrospective of someone who’s been dead for 10 years, 200 years a thousand years.
“So there’s something very living about this show and the way Anthony has taken on the spaces.”
The artist used a wide range of materials including soil, seawater, steel mesh, kaolin, wood and lead to unleash his creativity and with them he elaborates sculptures and amazing installations.
A total of 20 tons of seawater, 26 tons of earth brought from the English county of Buckinghamshire and 27 tons of steel were needed for some of the works on display.
Curator Martin Caiger-Smith described it as “one of the most ambitious exhibitions Anthony has ever done.”
“I think it also, for me it’s one of the most rigorous and coherent exhibitions,” he said.
He added that the show includes a “range of materials and an amazing range of forms.”
Caiger-Smith continued that some of the sculptures have to be “actually physically negotiated, climbed through.”
“There’s a lot of work for the eye to do here and there are some real challenges for the eye but all the senses are involved here, touch is involved in particular places but some of these works you physically touch, smell is involved, even sound is involved at times,” he added.
“These works are physical objects and the artist is asking for a physical response.”
The collection of works contrasts between a tiny cast-iron sculpture of a newborn baby, curled up in a fetal position located in the Annenberg Courtyard at the front of the Royal Academy, to installations of colossal proportions.
The work, called Iron Baby, is a life-sized model of Paloma, the artist’s daughter when she was six days old and is so small that it easily goes unnoticed.
It also includes some of the artist’s early projects from the 1970s and 1980s which are closely linked to minimalism and have not been exposed to the public.
These works include Land, Sea and Air and Fruits of the Earth, which are made from natural and artificial objects wrapped in lead.
One of the most striking works is Lost Horizon I which consists of 24 cast iron figures oriented towards different points on the floor, ceiling and walls.
The installation is questioning perceptions “and challenging gravity in many ways,” Caiger-Smith said.
Another major work Host, is a gallery full of seawater and mud with a depth of 23cm.
In one room there is a collection of sketchbooks and drawings by Gormley.
Matrix III is a visually impressive piece with consists of a gigantic maze suspended from the ceiling, which occupies one of the RA’s central galleries, made with 98% recycled steel mesh usually used to reinforce cement walls.
Also Cave, a black installation that resembles a dark cave that visitors can enter, that houses a complex and gigantic human figure.
Other rooms include original works on paper, in which unusual elements such as blood, earth and crude oil have been used.