Anthony Gormley: Sculptural Exploration of Human Experience

Анастасия Исаева
In times of contemporary art, Anthony Gormley’s name holds a special place. This British monumental sculptor is known for his profound reflections on space, body, and the environment, exploring their existential interaction within a prism of diverse materials. Often using his own body to create moulds, he sees this process as a form of meditation. His «figures» can be seen in different contexts, to walking on walls, fro protrude from the ground. These works prompt reflections on the limits of human existence and how humans fit into the broader context of the world and nature.

Five-part exhibition “Body Politic” at White Cube Gallery extends Anthony Gormley’s attempt to materialise forms of coexistence between humans and world itself.

I. Retreat.

The central corridor of the White Cube gallery is filled with "bunkers" of various shapes and sizes. These are eight concrete "shells" of the body – all representing human poses, conceived through experiments with cubic forms. There is a reference to the author's earlier works, when he travelled in India exploring tiny space capacity we as humans actually need to exist. In his 1974 work "Sleeping Place," he contemplated the minimum necessity for the human body. "The only place where we can find true freedom is the infinite darkness of the body, available to us when we are still”, Gormley says.
II. Resting Place.

The huge room holds 244 unique shapes formed with chaotically placed blocks of various sizes, recalling building’s or bodies silhouettes in mind. As yoga enthusiasts, my sister and I found this installation to be the perfect advertisement for yoga blocks. The sculptures are made with clay mined from the bowels of the earth in the Gloucestershire valleys, which is over 350 million years old.
The work revives a major project «Field», an installation of thousands of hand-made clay human figures by local volunteers, exhibited on five continents from 1989 to 2003. The first field appeared in 1991 on the border with Mexico, followed by the Amazon Field, then a European field in Germany, which won the Turner Prize in 1994, and ended with the Asian Field marathon in China, reminiscent of the Terracotta Army.
III. Test.

A room with iron figures opens another facet of Gormley's creativity – his interest in materials and their interaction with space. The author emphasizes that the core of our planet consists of molten iron, and we depend on its magnetic field. Each object represents a version of the matrix from X, Y, Z coordinates. All are in contact with space and depend on the wall's structure to not fall; some lie down, some stand, some lean. For me, this hall was the "strongest" due to the inclination of the figures, through which the author conveys strong emotions, such as pleading, humility, despair, hope.
IV. Bind.

"Metal Body", created from tangles of orthogonal steel bands, is literally tied to the wall. The focus from the central part spreads in all directions of the room; even steel belt perfectly stretch in all directions, sparing neither the floor nor the ceiling. The object demands our complete, I would say, "panoramic" interaction: one must negotiate with the work, bend to get a better look, and transcend - "context becomes content".
V. Stand.

The most "majestic" human model in the exhibition. It reaches a height of 5 meters, exceeding the average viewer's height by almost 2.5 times. The work is assembled from 150-millimeter square steel beams, where each element is attached to the next around a vertical central axis. The work recalls the creations of American sculptor Richard Serra.
The exhibition's goal is to draw attention to the impact of humans on the environment and their responsibility for the world in which we exist. Humans shape the environment, and the environment shapes humans. In the end, the viewer themselves becomes part of the exhibition. The artist plays with us through scale: in one place we freeze with majesty, raising our heads to the ceiling, in another we bend over to take a closer look at the "body" on the floor, and somewhere we move chaotically around the room, changing trajectory in an attempt to see the pose made of clay blocks.