Between You and Me. Antony Gormley

From: Thursday, 19 March 2009

To: Sunday, 20 September 2009

Place: North Gallery

Antony Gormley's work centres on the body as subject, object, and place.

Texts by Antony Gormley and Helen Luckett

Antony Gormley's work centres on the body as subject, object, and place. In this exhibition, dramatic and enveloping installations are accompanied by earlier sculptures.

Taking the body as its point of departure, the exhibition is an invitation to embark on a journey through different kinds of space. It explores the ways in which we orient ourselves spatially; how we react when disoriented; how we relate to architecture and the built environment. It also probes into the imaginative and emotional space of our inner beings.

Within the exhibition, space is defined and articulated by crowds and solitary figures — concrete, steel, cast iron or lead; representational or abstract; real or imagined — and voids where bodies could be.

In encountering these presences and absences, we are asked not to be passive onlookers, but to become part of the work as we walk through or around it, navigating and negotiating space.

Cast iron
2 bodyforms, each 191 x 68 x 37 cm
Alluding to mirroring as well as the necessity of self-knowledge through reflection the two identical bodyforms reference the tension between the palpable and the perceptual that runs throughout the exhibition as well as engaging the building and the space it contains as part of the material of the show.

SENSE, 1991
74.5 x 62.5 x 60 cm
At the beginning of the 1990s Gormley started producing geometrical blocks which ‘describe the space between the body and a compressed notion of architecture'. Using the traditional ‘lost-wax' casting technique, concrete was formed around a life-size wax mould of the artist's body. The wax was then melted and poured out, leaving a body-shaped void inside the block. In Sense, though we cannot see the space of the lost body in its hollow interior, the openings indicate other voids where the primary organs of sense — the hands and the head, with its eyes, nose and ears — are unconfined. The only visible imprint is left by the hands. While this work may carry overtones of horror, of punishment or sacrifice, it also conveys a sense of protection and preservation, and the mystery of incarnation. Talking about works such as Sense, Gormley has said: ‘You can read them as tombs, but they are also a celebration of life. They are about experiencing freedom by knowing one's intimate relationship with one's environment, knowing where one fits, comfortably, perfectly.'
‘I think that architecture is another kind of body, another container.'
Antony Gormley, 1994

BREAD LINE, 1979 / 2009
1 x 1 500 x 3 cm

White clay, white blanket
170 x 226 x 0,6 cm

SEEDS III/V, 1989/93
Unit size: 3.5 x 1.1cm diameter
Collection Würth, Künzelsau, Germany
Antony Gormley's sculpture has always been about ‘being'. In his early work he explored this phenomenologically through the use of materials such as bread, clothing, rubber, wood, stone and lead, observing that the job of sculpture ‘is to transform what exists in the outer world by uniting it with the world of sensation, imagination and faith.' He made his first bread work Bread Line in 1979, using Mother's Pride, the epitome of industrially-produced sliced white bread.
Dating from the late 1970s and early 80s, Gormley's early works were made during the Cold War when anxiety about the possibility of nuclear attack was at its height and the civil defence slogan was ‘Protect and Survive'. Using materials such as bread, an old hospital blanket and lead bullets, in these works Gormley focuses on our means of survival — food, shelter and defence — and our dependency on the material world.

3mm square section stainless steel bar
322 x 210 x 90 cm

2mm square section stainless steel bar
290 x 185 x 180 cm
Private collection
All of Gormley's work is an investigation into the nature of the space a human being inhabits. ‘I've never been interested in making statues,' he explains. ‘What I try to show is the space where the body was, not to represent the body itself.' His recent matrices and expansion pieces are so open in structure as to become almost drawings in space, and each reveals an empty body-space at its core. ‘Neither architecture nor anatomy,' as Gormley insists, they are ‘more like the random matrices found in fractal geometry.' Though some body-shapes may be immediately apparent among the stainless steel elements others will only manifest themselves slowly.
Speaking of the whole development of the Quantum Cloud and Bubble Matrix series the artist has said : ‘These bundles of nothing are the most dematerialised works I have ever made. The bodies are free, lost in space, weightless, and with no internal determination — they are not “acting”. They appear as emergent zones: you cannot be sure whether the bubble matrix is produced by the body zone or the zone by the matrix. The bubble matrix series is the closest I get to Brancusi's notion that you can turn an object into light. He did it by polishing sculptures, whereas I have tried to do it by abandoning weight and mass and dissolving surface.'
Antony Gormley, 2007
‘Sculpture reminds everyone that we are human and that we are embodied, incarnate, that all your sense of self and being comes through the body which is only fully itself when placed, connected to an elemental world.'
Antony Gormley, 2001

Approx. 40 000 elements, each 8-26 cm high
European Field was created by Gormley with residents of Mälmo, Sweden in 1993. More than 200 men, women and children worked on the project, each instructed to ‘take a hand-size ball of clay, and form it between the hands, into a body-surrogate as quickly as possible. Place it at arm's length in front of you and give it eyes.' Together they created approximately 40,000 figures. Originally conceived in Mexico in 1990, Field has since become one of Gormley's best known works.
‘I wanted to see if I could make a work that evoked the silence of the ground and the necessity of touch – the necessity of touching the other side of life, that which lives behind appearance. I needed to work with others and with the earth, to do something direct with fire and clay.
I wanted to use my life to change my life – to start again – to start with a confrontation with the ground, and in that ground to plant possibility. I also wanted to make something that challenged my ideas of form – of the refinement of form and how that happens. With this piece, nothing is finished – the process of making the piece is only each maker's familiarity and trust in the repeated motions of separating a lump of clay from the kneaded mass and forming it. There was not a touch, but touch itself. The “sharedness” of the origin of this work was the most complete of any I have attempted.'
Antony Gormley, 1991

Cast iron
Variable, 60 lifesize elements.
Critical mass, noun: the amount of fissionable material necessary to sustain a chain reaction at a constant rate; an amount necessary or sufficient to have a significant effect or to achieve a result: a critical mass of popular support.
‘The use of this material — iron — is associated with the deep underground that lies beneath our feet and emphasises that our body is on temporary loan from the mass of matter constituting the planet and to which, in some way, we give shape.'
Antony Gormley, 1995.
There are five suspended elements that are part of a much larger installation consisting of 60 figures, most of them earth-bound, which were cast from twelve basic body postures – a lexicon of body-language. The pieces are all allowed to be at rest , evoking different readings dependent on which way they are orientated (the kneeling figure when fallen backwards becomes an arch of hysteria, the mourning figure with its head bent becomes an acrobat when placed in a shoulder stand). ‘The suspensions are vital. Maybe there are two things identified here: firstly, bearing witness to torture and execution, the worst destiny of the dispossessed. Secondly, through an arrested fall, activating a gravitational field (these forms have ten times the density of an ordinary human body of that size).'

Antony Gormley was born in London in 1950. After taking a degree in archaeology, anthropology and art history at Trinity College, Cambridge, he went to India, where he became interested in Buddhism and studied vipassana meditation. Three years later he returned to England to study at the Central School of Art, Goldsmiths College and the Slade School of Fine Art.

Over the past twenty-five years, using his own body as subject, tool and material, Antony Gormley has revitalised the human image in sculpture through his investigation into the body as a place of memory and transformation. He has created some of the most ambitious and iconic works of the past two decades, including Field, The Angel of the North at Gateshead, Quantum Cloud on the Thames at Greenwich and Another Place, now permanently sited on Crosby Beach near Liverpook, UK.

Antony Gormley was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994, the South Bank Prize for Visual Art in 1999 and the Bernhard Heiliger Award for Sculpture in 2007.

Produced by ARTIUM (Vitoria-Gasteiz), Kunsthal (Rotterdam) and Musée d'Art Moderne (St. Etienne), with the collaboration of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac (Paris, Salzburg). Sponsored by the Provincial Council of Alava, Ministry of Culture, Mondragon, Naturgas, EITB.


Between You and Me. Antony Gormley
From March 19 until September 20, 2009. North Gallery

Catalogue Between You and Me. Antony Gormley, with texts by Rod Mengham and Fernando Huici and an interview of Antony Gormley with Pierre Tillet.
Activities: inauguration (Wednesday March 18, 8 PM); Lecture by Antony Gormley (Wednesday March 18, 7 PM); free guided visits

The piece Touch III (2008) is on show in the entrance hall of EITB's headquarters in Bilbao.

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