Recent work by Antony Gormley has extended his oeuvre to include inspiring explorations of architectural space. Previously known for reductive figures cast from his own body and larger scale figures such as “Angel of the North”, Gormley has begun to investigate a more abstract spatial language that engages with the gallery and the viewer.

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Clearing V 2009                                        Photo Markus Tretter

The “Clearing” series of installations occupy the rectilinear gallery spaces with a chaotic curving line. Gormley wanted to challenge the static single-point perspective with a space-time continuum of dynamic vector fill. 12.7mm square aluminium tube loops continuously for 11km through the space.


Clearing IV 2005                                      Photo Stephen White

breathing room IV

Breathing Room IV (Brasilia) 2012      Photo Joana Franca

The “Breathing Room” series of installations allows the observer to simultaneously experience several interpenetrating orthogonal spaces defined by linear frames. Each space is concentric and has equal volume but with differing proportions. At night, phosphor H15 paint transforms the work into a wireframe landscape of light.

breathing room III

 Breathing Room III 2010                    Photo Stephen White

clutch VI

Clutch VI 2011                Photo Stephen White

Gormley has used a similar orthogonal architectural language to inform his work with the human figure. In “Clutch VI” the pixellated form is described with a parallel wireframe construction. The relationship of all rectilinear edges and nodes are easily perceived and thus the whole ordered form is simply understood. 8mm key steel.


Lot 2012                                                  Photo Stephen White

Gormley develops the orthogonal wireframe motif in “Lot”. Easily recognized and autonomous cubes allow the abandonment of parallel relationships in favour of independent orientation of the “building blocks”. 4mm square stainless steel bar. (Note the cube is the generic form of salt, thus referencing Lot’s wife.)

quantum void II

Quantum Void II 2008      Photo Stephen White

“Quantum Void” profoundly defines the figure as a void at the centre of a chaotic field of stainless steel rods. In Gormley’s words, “the indeterminancy of the skin summons active involvement of the projection and finding force of the beholder”.

This language is directly transferable to architectural space. A spatial envelope may be described by a perceived internal absence of an external pattern, similar to a clearing in the woods or even a crop circle.


Vessel 2012                                             Photo Ela Bialkowska

model 2012

Model 2012                                                 Photo Ben Westoby

Finally, two related works, “Vessel” and “Model”, unite the subjects of architecture and figure. Super-scale recumbent figures are assembled from room-sized boxes of CorTen steel. Model is an inhabitable giant, inspired by the interaction of his children with the construction of “Angel of the North”. Visitors are invited to explore the connected, dimly lit chambers. Gormley references Judd, Serra and the renaissance city planned in the form of a man. Model is showing at the White Cube Bermondsey until 10 February 2013.

Ken Grix

For further interesting work, visit www.antonygormley.com


7 thoughts on “Gormley Goes Architectural

  1. It’s great to see the lineage of work that culminated in both Model and Vessel. Did you visit Model? If so what were your thoughts of it as a sequence of spaces?

    I found it thrilling; as soon as I was robbed of sight in the dark my whole body became a receiver for experiencing the size and shape of the rooms. I sat in the dark of the ‘head’ for at least two minutes before I realised there was someone else less than a meter away from me!

    A lot of inspirational architecture interrogates space through control of light and dark, and attempts to engage all 5 human senses – it’s a shame you have to sign a waiver of rights before you are allowed to publicly experience it though!


  2. Thanks Ferg,
    I’ve not seen “contract” before. Odd how the recumbant figure seems to levitate. Perhaps that is a reference to homelessness. You should check out Gormleys’ website because there are many other figures with architectural themes, eg. facade patterns of solid and void akin to FCBs Broadcasting Place. His exhibition at the White Cube includes stacked blocks similar to your example. We should visit it during the “Awayday” weekend.

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