Antony Gormley
Biography of British Postmodernist Sculptor, Turner Prize-Winner.
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Field (UK version) (1994) Tate Gallery
Installation of terracotta figures,
winner of Turner Prize 1994.

CONTEMPORARY ART AWARDS
See: Turner Prize Winners.

Antony Gormley (b.1950)

The sculptor Antony Gormley OBE RA is one of England's leading artists. A student at Goldsmiths College and the Slade School of Art, a student of Buddhism, and winner of the 1994 Turner Prize, his monumental steel sculpture and installation art can be seen in locations around the world.

His most famous works include the 20-metre high public art statue Angel of the North (1994-8, located beside the A1/M1 near Gateshead in Northern England); the series of terracotta figures entitled Field (1994, Tate Gallery, London); and the life-size cast iron figures entitled Another Place (1997, Crosby Beach, near Liverpool). Other popular works include Bed (1980-1, made out of slices of bread, Tate Gallery, London); Three Ways: Mould, Hole and Passage (1981, Tate Gallery, London); Man Falling (1985, private collection); and Maquette for Leeds Brick Man (1986, Leeds City Art Gallery). Gormley is one of the most innovative 20th century sculptors in Britain. For earlier artists, see: Modern British sculpture (1930-70).


Angel of the North (1994)
Gateshead, England.

MODERN PLASTIC ARTISTS
See: Modern Artists.

CONTEMPORARY SCULPTORS
Mark Di Suvero (b.1933)
Richard Serra (b.1939)
Bruce Naumann (b.1941)
John De Andrea (b.1941)
Anish Kapoor (b.1954)
Jeff Koons (b.1955)
Damien Hirst (b.1965)

EVOLUTION OF SCULPTURE
For details of the origins and
development of the plastic arts
see: History of Sculpture.

BEST SCULPTURES
For a list of the world's top 100
3-D artworks, by the best sculptors
in the history of art, see:
Greatest Sculptures Ever.

BEST SCULPTORS
For a list of the world's most
talented 3-D artists, see:
Greatest Sculptors.

Early Life

Gormley was born in London in 1950, the youngest of seven children, his mother was German and his father was Irish. He grew up in the wealthy suburb of Hampstead Garden, and attended Ampleforth College in Yorkshire. Between 1966 and 1971 he read archeology, anthropology and the history of art at Trinity College, Cambridge, after which he travelled extensively in the Near and Far East (1971-4), studying the artistic cultures of the ancient lands and the influence of Buddhism. On his return to the UK he decided to pursue an art career and began his artistic studies in London at several art colleges including the Central School, Goldsmiths College and the Slade School.

From the 1980s onwards he was included in international group shows and had his first solo show in London in 1981 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. His first one-man New York show followed in 1984. Most of Gormley's sculptures are of a figurative nature, based on casts of his own body. These life-size works have no specific features and are weldered together in static poses - crouching, standing, and lying on the floor or hanging on the wall and ceiling. To create the sculpture, Gormley is wrapped in clingfilm, then cloth, then wet plaster. Tubes are inserted into his nose to permit breathing. Once the plaster is dry, he is cut out of the resulting mould, and lead or other molten metal is used to fill the empty space.

 

 

Turner Prize

In 1994 Gormley was awarded the prestigious Turner Prize for his work 'Field', a work which consists of approximately 35,000 individual terracotta figures, each between 8 and 26cm high, installed in a room, facing the viewer. Their eyes are raised, staring, suggesting timeless humanity and its perplexities. The figures were sculpted in Mexico by a family of brick makers, under the supervision of the artist. When it was unveiled at the Tate Gallery in 1994, the sculpture received much popular press - but there was also some negative feeling as some members of the public felt that credit for the work should go to the Mexican family, and not the artist. Although the sculpture has been installed in various locations, the miniatures are always placed looking towards the viewer. Subsequently several other versions of Field have been created including: Amazonian Field (1991, 24,000 figures sculpted in Porto Velho, Brazil); Field for the British Isles (1993, 40,000 figures crafted in St Helens, Liverpool); European Field (1993, 40,000 figures carved in Sweden); Asian Field China (2003, created in the Guangdong province, China); Asian Field Japan (2004, 200,000 figures sculpted in Tokyo) and Field for the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1989). The 2006 Sydney Biennale featured Gormley's Asian Field of China. The sculpture was made by 350 Chinese villagers in 5 days from 100 tons of red clay. Again, the appropriation of other people's labour, led to some of the figurines being stolen in protest.

Note About Sculpture Appreciation
To learn how to evaluate postmodernist sculptors like Antony Gormley, see: How to Appreciate Modern Sculpture. For earlier works, please see: How to Appreciate Sculpture.

Sculpture: Another Place

In 1997 Gormley created Another Place. He forged 100 life-size cast iron standing figures that are spread across 3 kilometres of beach near Liverpool. The figures are all cast from the artist's own body and are shown in different stages of rising out of the sand, looking towards the water, staring, silently. The work is sometimes associated with the universal sentiments associated with emigration, of loss and new beginnings. Gormley is considered by this work, and others, to have rescued the human figure - a central theme of sculpture since classical antiquity - from its long period of abstention during Abstract Expressionism's popularity. In 2006 the statues were to be moved to New York, but after successful local appeal they will now remain permanently in Liverpool.

Sculpture: Angel of the North

Since the early 1990s Gormley has worked on more large-scale installations. One of his most famous is the statue Angel of the North, situated by the A1/M1 Motorway, near Gateshead in England. The sculpture is 20 meters high, its wing-span is 54 metres, and it weighs nearly 200 tons. Inspired by childhood memories of imaginary guardian angels, Gormley aimed to replicate one of these divine helpers in this work. Angel of the North also embodies ideas about technology and progress, in particular how man has changed as a result of progress and to what extent his body is dependent on technology. The Angel of the North is based on the artists own body, albeit greatly magnified. The sculpture, made from Cor-Ten weather resistant steel, was created in three pieces off site at a local steel factory, at a cost of one million pounds.

Trafalgar Square: Fourth Plinth

The Fourth Plinth is the name given to the empty plinth in the north-west corner of Trafalgar Square in London. Originally designed in 1841 to display an equestrian statue, funds ran out and so the plinth became known as the 'empty plinth'. In 1998 the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts commissioned a series of three works by Mark Wallinger, Bill Woodrow, and Rachel Whiteread to be displayed temporarily on the plinth. Ever since then, the Plinth has been used for temporary installations and art works by international artists. Mark Quinn created a sculpture called Alison Lapper Pregnant - a portrait of Lapper, a disabled artist, when she was 8 months pregnant. The sculpture was created out of a single block of white marble and created a high level of media interest. In 2009 Gormley was given a spot on the plinth. He called his installation One & Other. Basically one person stood on the Plinth, every hour, 24 hours a day for 100 days. The people who participated were known as Plinthers, and were allowed to make the Plinth their own space for that one hour. Those 2,400 people who took part were chosen randomly from 35,000 website requests. One & Other ran between 6 July and 14 October 2009.

International Recognition

In recent works, Gormley has created figures from wire, so as to make the inner space visible, emphasising the imaginative potential and openness of his sculptures. These have proven popular in commercial galleries around the world. His work has been exhibited in some of the best art museums in the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Louisiana Museum; the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC; the Irish Museum of Modern art in Dublin; the Moderna Museet in Stockholm; and the Kolnischer Kunstverein in Germany. In 2009 he had a solo show at the Galleria Continua Beijing and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg. Currently a trustee of the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art and the British Museum, Gormley is also an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He continues to live and work in London.

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