If you do nothing else, do go and see the Antony Gormley exhibition at the Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London. It’s stunning, and it closes on 3 December. I’ve been once and hope very much to make a return visit before then.
With but brief commentary, let me just illustrate selectively some of its richness and diversity:
Among several visual ‘tricks’, One Apple is a line of 53 lead cases each containing the remains of an apple as the fruit grows. At the far end, the case contains the the dried remains of the first petal to fall from the blossom; at the near end is the dried, mature fruit. The whole, we are told, ‘reveals Gormley’s preoccupation with ideas of expansion in time and space.’
The artist calls this a ‘drawing in space’. It is made from c8 kms ‘of square section aluminium tube, coiled and allowed to expand until restricted by the floor, walls and ceiling.’ Visitors have to clamber through it to reach the other door, and clearly enjoy doing so.
Matrix III 2019 is a ‘vast cloud’ of ‘a mesmerising visual labyrinth,’ made up of ’21 suspended room-size cages … surrounding a small concentrated chamber’, in effect a void. The airiness of the whole becomes a solid challenging one to walk beneath it – as one in fact does with complete confidence that it will not crash down. An amazing work, described by Gormley as ‘the ghost of the environment we’ve all chosen to accept as our primary habitat.’ Maybe …
Meet the Gormleys, standing upright slightly larger than normal life-size, protruding from the walls in defiance of gravity
and standing upside-down on the ceilings:
The figures are of course iron casts of Gormley’s body, well-known from outdoor works in many places throughout the world. Locally, Another Place on Crosby Beach, Merseyside, is a classic example. Here, this room is visually quite remarkable; but prosaically, I couldn’t help wondering how the engineering to create this effect had been carried out in what is presumably a Grade 1 Listed Building.
This caveat applies just as much to the next image. Room 13 is called ‘Host‘ 2019. In what is just an ordinary gallery of the RA, the floor has been covered with clay and filled with seawater:
The effect is transformative, not least in its reflections, mental as well as visual. Is this a flood bringing destruction? Or is this where life began, a construct of the primordial soup?
Alongside the visual drama from room to room, ordinary workbooks, sketches and even drawings and paintings are also exhibited. ‘Home‘ 1990, a work in blood on paper, seems somehow to be their appropriate representative.