Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy of Arts
From The Angel of the North in Gateshead to the Event Horizon piece that first appeared in London, then New York and subsequently Brazil and Hong Kong, Antony Gormley’s monumental sculptures have made him one of the leading figures in the art world. Bringing together one of the largest collections of his work to date, the Royal Academy of Arts hosts an impressive display over 13 of its main galleries. Visitors can expect mixed-media paintings with illuminating sculptures that often engulf the entire working space.
At the core of the exhibition is the artist’s exploration of our collective experience of the body and how we engage with it. The first piece, Iron Baby (1999), appears in the Annenberg courtyard: a single cast-iron newborn that suggests human vulnerability. We are led into the first main gallery, where 14 brick-like steel slabs seem to take ambiguous human forms despite their geometric mass. The form becomes more apparent in the sculpture Subject II (2019), where multiple 10mm steel bars take a slightly more anatomical shape, and finally Gormley plumps and softens the bodily figure in undoubtedly one of the exhibition’s highlights, Lost Horizon I (2008), where 24 life-size sculptures of the artist himself in six different cast-iron poses appear to defy gravity in their disorientating placements.
Visitors can move in any direction through the exhibition, encouraged to carefully stumble or crouch through the 8km of aluminium tube entitled Clearing VII (2019) before negotiating the claustrophobic, giant-scale, enigmatic Cave (2019). A complex 6-tonne web of steel mesh hangs ominously above our heads in Matrix III (2019), whilst a calming expanse of clay and seawater in Host (2019) invites the visitor to a quiet moment of contemplation, watching the gallery’s natural light and atmosphere react with this organic representation of the elements.
There are plentiful paintings and drawings, experimenting with natural pigments, various oils, and even blood, but there is an intentional absence of colour from the exhibition which sometimes gives it a slightly industrial bleakness. For Gormley fans, though, this show is a treat, given that the artist has also opened up his collection of personal sketchbooks, giving us a phenomenal insight into this extraordinary sculptor.
Featured image: Antony Gormley, Lost Horizon I, 2008, White Cube. Photo: Stephen White
Antony Gormley is at the Royal Academy of Arts from 21st September until 3rd December 2019. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.