Antony Gormley’s latest exhibition is thoroughly provocative and engages the senses in an interactive and fully immersive experience. For his most significant exhibition in over a decade, Gormley, together with the Royal Academy, showcase a comprehensive collection, featuring rarely seen works from the late 70s and early 80s, as well as creating new pieces especially for the exhibition. The result is an experiential installation that plays with scale and light through organic, industrial and elemental materials.
Preceding the exhibition is Iron Baby, 1999, a life-sized baby curled up on the floor of the courtyard, fast asleep, vulnerable and dwarfed by the towering Royal Academy behind it. Though initially shocking, what Gormley describes as a ‘bomb’ full of potential destructiveness challenges initial reactions, setting the tone for the rest of the exhibition. As Gormley says: ‘There is no subject until the viewer arrives and begins to engage.’ The internationally acclaimed artist is renowned for his sculptures, installations and public artworks, including the Angel of the North, Another Place and Field. Like all of his great works, this exhibition explores ‘the dark inner space of the body’ looking at both the body as a space itself and the body in space.
The visitor is invited to not only view but also become part of the artwork in Clearing VII, made up of 8km black aluminium that coils and loops round, filling the entire gallery room. As you scramble through and over the work, you become a subject of the piece. As well as Gormley’s meticulous sketching in his notebooks where his works slowly come to life on paper, an obvious highlight of the exhibition includes the Lost Horizon I. Featuring 24 cast iron humanoids of Gormley all over the walls, floor and ceiling, it disorients and challenges the laws of physics.
The show culminates with Host, which fills the entire space with still seawater and red earth reflecting the skylights above. A spectacle that evolves as the light changes throughout the day and over the course of the exhibition as the light dwindles. A subtle nod to the beginnings of life originally crawling out of the ocean and perhaps also an ominous foreshadowing of the end.
A must-see for 2019, this is a rare opportunity to view such a comprehensive and retrospective installation of Gormley’s works. Running until 3rd December 2019, the exhibition takes you on a journey from small to big, elementary materials to complex engineering, allowing the visitor to become the subject of the art and at the heart of the message behind each piece.
Lead exhibition sponsor: BNP Paribas
Image 1 - Antony Gormley, Cave, 2019. Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts
Image 2 - Antony Gormley, Slabworks, 2019. Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts
Image 3 - Antony Gormley, Mother's Pride V, 2019. Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts
Image 4- Antony Gormley, Clearing VII, 2019. Photo: © Oak Taylor-Smith
Image 5 - ‘Antony Gormley’, Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts
Image 6 - Antony Gormley, Lost Horizon I, 2008. Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts
Image 7 - Antony Gormley, Cave, 2019. Photo: Oak Taylor-Smith
Image 8 - Antony Gormley, Body and Fruit, 1991/93. Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts