25th October 2019

A visit to Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy. My friend is not an art fan, but I think this may convert her. The show is a large collection of works, some are brand new and others are reworked for the RA.

As I expect there are a large number of visitors and I am disappointed at how many do not even look at some of the pieces. However, my friend is patient and we spend a long time wandering around. There is much to admire, and I am glad that I watched the RA videos in order that I understood the scale of the work and the processes involved.

My favourite is “Matrix 111”, 2019, where reinforcing steel mesh has been assembled and suspended from the ceiling. I sat for a long time contemplating this work and observing how other people interacted with the work. Without fail, everyone entered the room and made for the middle of space underneath the structure, to gaze into the depths above them.

“Last Horizon!”’ 2008 would be familiar to many. There are 24 body forms cast from iron suspended around the room. Gormley apparently created these forms back in the 1990’s by wrapping his body first in cling film, then in scrim and plaster and holding the pose until the plaster dried. He learned how to do this using meditation techniques he learned while travelling in India and meditating for 12 hours a day at a Buddhist temple.

The figures are familiar because they are often recreated. 100 stand on Crosby Beach in Merseyside, initially placed there for the Liverpool Biennale in 2005, and still there today.

As Gormley has said, our bodies are hosts to whole communities of other organisms – even if we’re not aware of it. “In every cubic millimetre of the saliva in my mouth there are about a hundred million bacteria. Totally independent, mono-cellular organisms, of which I am the host… When it comes to the body, any notion of ‘me’ or ‘mine’ is simply an inaccurate reflection of the fact that we are all part of bigger systems, the truth of which we will never know”. This is illustrated in “Host” 2019. Gormley floods a space with mud and saltwater in what he calls a “primal soup”. The soup is then allowed to underact with the environment.