This autumn, the Main Galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts host a major retrospective of sculptor Antony Gormley, noted for, amongst other works, the Angel of the North which watches over the A1. The artist frequently utilises the human body – famously, his own – in his work, the familiar form becoming a tool through which to explore themes of space, nature and humans’ place in it.
Spanning the entire 45 years of the artist’s career, the exhibition is multi-sensory and engrossing, with several works demanding the audience’s active participation. Clearing VII, for example, is a giant ‘drawing in space’: 8 kilometres of criss-crossing coiled steel over which visitors must clamber, eliciting an acute awareness of one’s body not generally experienced in a museum setting. Getting to the show’s end requires stooping down to traverse the Cave, a giant tunnel structure made of steel boxes, in the dark – immersive in the literal sense of the word.
Gormley’s signature works, the life-size cast iron men, feature prominently throughout the galleries. In Lost Horizon I they are gravity-defying: standing not only on the floor but also the ceiling, sticking out of the walls at right angles in a bizarre, disorientating display. Another highlight is Host, an eerie expanse of still water over a shallow clay seabed, which stretches out to a single closed door. Resist the temptation to reach for Instagram – if only for half a minute – to fully take in this alien scene.
Unusual, thought-provoking and a little unsettling, the sculptures and installations in this exhibition provide a genuine experience and insight into the work of one of Britain’s most iconic artists.
21 September – 3 December 2019, 10am – 6pm (10am – 10pm on Fridays)
Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, London W1J 0BD
Tickets £18 – £22, royalacademy.org.uk
Nota Bene: This exhibition features work that may not be suitable for people who experience claustrophobia. Some of the pieces contain water, sharp edges, and materials that may transfer onto clothing.