With scatterings of futuristic beings juxtaposed against white walls walls and the faded grey floor of White Cube’s Bermondsey space is Antony Gormley’s new exhibition, Model. Darkened figures lurk in the shadows, emerging from the concrete; domineering inhabitants shun away the seemingly unwelcome spectators. Occupying the South Gallery is the massive work, itself entitled Model, which allows visitors to walk into its complete darkness and allow anything to happen.
Antony Gormley is renowned for his exploration of the darkness that he believes constitutes the human body. Born in 1950, Gormley’s investigation into this dark matter began as a child when he was confined to a small, dark room for half an hour after his lunch by his mother in order to rest sufficiently enough to digest his food. This respite was, at first, dreaded by the young Gormley; however, as time passed, he began to find solace within the blackened environment. He believes that the body is a limit; it is an intimate and subjective space that each of us inhabits. Gormley aims to recreate this space sculpturally as a means to explore it, and in turn, the elemental world that exists around it.
The Bermondsey exhibition is titled after the main feature of the show; the hollowed out sculpture Model which serves as much as an interactive work as it does as an aesthetic. Much like Gormley’s other work, Model is comprised of box-like abstractions that represent the human form. It is a vastly obscured self portrait of sorts. However, unique to his work, his portraits focus on documenting the internal void of a person rather than the visual representation one may be accustomed to. Gormley achieves this depiction via supplanting various elements of the body with geometrical constructs that often loosely detail the body’s various appendages and orifices with cast iron architecture.
The individual work Model however, unlike much of his oeuvre, is actually constructed from weathering steel (COR-TEN), a stronger and potentially more foreboding medium which strengthens the architecture enough to make the piece suitable for inhabitants. Spectators have the option of signing a release form and venturing inside this larger than life installation to walk and even crawl through the space.
In a departure from his other work, this piece relies on human interaction to complete the process and develop a final, refined artwork. The movement of life forms created vis-á-vis the architecture recall the inner workings of the human body down to a cellular level. Each person who enters the darkness of the void has their own memories, fears and desires that interact with one and other within the confined environment – the darkness of the surrounding provokes these emotions within the spectator. This interaction reflects in some way the mechanics of the brain and the mind, thus creating a more ‘whole’ representation of the human form than previously seen in Gormley’s work.
The intimidation of the darkness found inside Model permeates the show. Even simply entering the gallery, one you feels as though one is being observed –- a rather ironic occurrence considering the spectators are there to observe themselves. The geometrical likes of Hinge sits ominously outside the gallery, with Hinge II as a companion, along with several others. The foreboding figurines lead into a corridor of omnipresent robotic structures that lean lazily yet forcefully against the walls. In this sense the figures are confusing; they draw the spectator in initially, yet the persistence of their presence may simultaneously frighten away the audience.
Splay, a solitary looking sculpture, appears maimed, sitting on the gallery floor, helpless, as only one leg and foot. The suggestion is made that it is the lost limb of one of the bodies that inhabit the gallery, immobile. This sense of isolation is carried through to other works dotted around the gallery. One such example is Bare; the relatively small composition of the structure in comparison to Gormley’s other works make the object appear feeble, almost as though it is embracing itself. The sculptures’ various stances give way to a range of emotions, and perhaps a complete representation of a human, detailing not only the physical entity of a being, but the psychological, emotional essence of a person too, making this perhaps one of Gormley’s most compelling exhibitions to date.
Gallery Site [White Cube]
The Guardian [I’ve Made a Body You Can Actually Go Into]
FT: [Antony Gormley: Model, White Cube, Bermondsey, London]
The Malaysian Insider [Sculptor Gormley wants us to get inside his head]
AntonyGormely.com [MODEL, White Cube Bermondsey, London, England – Antony Gormley]