Archive for category Author: Antony Gormley

Shaping The World || Antony Gormley & Martin Gayford

Artists are not always the best people to talk about art. The creative process is intensely personal and can be driven by forces that even the practitioner does not fully understand. Equally, those who talk and write about it, are not themselves creators in visual media and have to tease the artist’s inner workings out of their own perceptions of the finished article.

However. There are times when these two worlds align, and Martin Gayford is usually one of the parties. He is one of the most cogent writers about art and the creative process there is and understands it in a way that few non-practitioners are able to. Even on his own, he is able to provide the reader with the sense of being an insider rather than simply a viewer – and this while that reader is looking at the page rather than the artwork.

Gayford is also a very effective collaborator and his conversations with David Hockney have illuminated works, the artist and the creative process all at the same time. This book takes the same approach: it is a discussion between Gormley and Gayford that covers three-dimensional work in stone, clay and metal from prehistoric times to the present day. Yes, it is substantial and it’s worth adding that the quality of production does full justice to the superb content.

If you asked a random member of the public to name a sculptor, the chances are that Antony Gormley would be the one they’d come up with. Not only will they know his name, but they’ll also be at least broadly familiar with his spare and idiosyncratic figures – the large public works such as The Angel Of The North that are impossible to ignore. We already know from other publications that Gormley can be eloquent on the creative method and he and Gayford here spark ideas off each other that are more illuminating than either of them writing alone.

A book such as this requires careful editing. All discussions include diversions and side-tracks that obscure the central point, but heavy-handed attempts to keep them at least appearing to be contiguous can easily leave the language stilted. Not so here and there’s a strong sense of a continuous narrative driven by shared enthusiasm and common, though not always parallel, ground.

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This lands on you like a major work. It knows it is important, but it wears its learning lightly and, even though we probably expect it, it’s a pleasure to find that this is so.

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Antony Gormley on Sculpture || Antony Gormley and Mark Holborn

Everything about this book says “serious”. The simple it-is-what-it-is title printed in black and red using an architectural serif font and the taupe cloth binding immediately put it on the reference shelf. You can’t help handling it with reverence and its smallish format makes it easy to hold in both hands, rather like a Japanese businessman presenting his card.

I don’t mean that to sound as though I’m knocking the book’s pretentions; I’m not. However, if something demands to be taken seriously, it creates a level of expectation about its contents. Can it live up to its own billing? Well, the blurb tells me that the Gormley (as I think of him) “presents his work and artistic influences in his own words” (their bold italics). So, if this is the master’s voice, it wants you to know it. No ghost-writing here.

The first thing you notice on initial acquaintance is that it’s copiously illustrated. It’s all colour and there are no dodgy transparencies, no getting away with it because it’s an important subject and it was the best we could get. You’d expect no less, but you don’t always get it. Big tick there, then.

The blurb also describes Gormley as a “highly visible sculptor” and I know what it means. His works, especially The Angel of the North, are impossible to miss and are recognisable, even if abstracted, forms. Most of the general public would recognise the name, which is not a common thing, even in such a public art form as sculpture.

You may have noticed by now that I’m taking my time getting to the content. This is because I’m not sure how much is original to this book and how much it’s a compilation (an editor is also credited). Does this matter – after all, if you want the collected thoughts of a major living practitioner, wouldn’t you be glad to have it made accessible however it’s done? The book is divided into four main sections. Body Space and Body Time: Living in Sculpture explores the artist’s thoughts on the human form (as you’d expect, it’s his main theme) and looks at some of his major installations. Sculptors is adapted from a series of radio talks (this is where the known-to-be-rehashed material comes in) looking at influential pieces by Epstein, Brancusi, Giacometti and Beuys. In Mindfulness, Gormley discusses the influences of Buddhism and Jain on his work and a final chapter, Expansion considers some of his more recent pieces.

The one thing you may notice from that rather exhaustive listing is that this is, I think, more a book about Antony Gormley than it is about sculpture. True, the illustrations give a different picture and the text does indeed range wide and exhibit a great awareness of the world of sculpture as a whole. Remember, though, that this is the man who bases most of his figures on his own body. Nothing wrong with that – as I said earlier, his forms are abstracted and you have to start somewhere. Even so, there’s a lot about how other people have influenced Gormley rather than how they themselves have been influenced.

I’m maybe being a bit picky and, whatever the book is, Antony Gormley’s views will always be of major interest and importance. For all that, I can’t help thinking that it’s not, au fond the major survey of the history and practice of sculpture that the title and presentation would like you to think. Maybe Antony Gormley on Antony Gormley would sum it up better.

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