Antony Gormley is a contrast to Lucian Freud as Gormley is not interested in real likeness but instead invites us to rediscover our space. My first encounter of his work was the ‘Iron Baby 1999’ a fragile object but not by material – set against the towering enclosed courtyard of the RA. The six-day-old newborn baby is cast in iron and a very fragile but solid object. The material contradicted its subject and made me feel vulnerability.
In contrast to this solo human form, the first gallery consisted of fourteen sculptures placed across the floor. The steel slabs were actually geometric interpretations of the human structure making up a body.
As I walked through his early works he created during the 1970’s and 80’s I thought the gallery lacked in colour, however the forms were intriguing, especially the ‘One Apple’, which cut the space – 53 items in lead cases mapping the growth of the apple. The sculpture did not move me in any way just made me more intrigued about this documentation. I learnt that he used lead, which can insulate against radiation – this was in response to Gormley growing up during the Cold War. I now understood why he concealed objects. This technique of wrapping in Gormley’s words was ‘Seeds for the future’ Does he see this as preserving nuggets of time?
Next I entered a gallery full of 8km of square aluminum tubing coiled into a room, as thought is had suddenly been let go and expanded into the space. It was called ‘Clearing VII 2019’ and aimed to challenge the boundaries of sculpture. You had to bend and step over parts whilst looking into the center you were very much part of the installation, inside its bones.
My favorite sculpture was called ‘Subject II 2019’ a life size body made from steel bars with its head bent down. The steel bars formed what I see as a pixel like form highlighting the space of the body and the absence of skin. Ghost like in appearance it seemed to me to be a digital relic.
As I walked into the next gallery a sky of architectural lines were in front of me with its perspective moving on every step, ‘Matrix III 2019’. The horizontal and vertical steel mesh highlighted the space and made a great photograph, with all the angles at juxtaposition as the cages intersected. I felt like this construction of space was then deconstructed and Gormley had edited this down to the minimal steel bars that spanned through the next galleries with ‘Co-ordinate VI’. It was like looking at a macro element of ‘Matrix III’
‘Lost Horizon I 2008’ was what I know Gormley for. Cast iron figures arranged in unexpected positions defying gravity and questioning our perception of natural orientation. In contrast to these figures came ‘Concrete Works 1990-93’, which I felt were baron. These concrete blocks that concealed a void reminded me of Rachel Whiteread’s concrete ‘House’. The blocks mapped the reverse and you were only able to glimpse at sections of the body.
The ‘Cave’, which seemed intriguing and reminded me of Robert Wogan’s steel lined maze I visited at the Liverpool Biennial in 2002. However when you emerged from this cave I came across ‘Host 2019’, A gallery full of a thin layer of earth and water, very still and untouched. It felt surreal and not like any form of preservation but a new creation after some sort of devastation.