Research Task: Antony Gormley
Year 11 Research Task Antony Gormley Examine the relationship between artists, the artworks they create and their intended audiences. “Field” – Antony Gormley “Waste Man” – Antony Gormley “Still Falling” – Antony Gormley Antony Gormley was born in London in 1950, his artistic career has spanned over forty years and some of his best known works include “Field”, “Waste Man” and “Still Falling”. The majority of Gormley’s sculptures include the human form, he claims this is “an attempt to materialise the place at the other side of appearance where we all live”.
Gormley was raised in an upper-class Roman Catholic family; he was the oldest of seven children to a German mother and an Irish father. Between 1968 and 1979, Gormley attended Ampleforth College, Trinity College, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and the Slade School of Fine Art. He also travelled throughout India and Sri Lanka. In 1981, Gormley hosted his first solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Debatably Gormley’s most famous project, his “Field” series has created much controversy and roused much interest in the art-making community.
Originally an instalment consisting of approximately 35,000 terracotta figures, “Field” was constructed by sixty members of a family of brick makers. Each figure is between eight centimetres and twenty six centimetres tall and has two hollow eyes designed to stare at the viewer. Each figure is placed on the floor of the display room and arranged so that they appear to be looking straight at the viewer. Since the first display of “Field” (which drew a lot of media attention), the figures have been set up in many different galleries.
Each time the installation is moved it changes slightly, as each figure again has to be individually placed. Since the first “Field” attracted so much attention, Gormley has recreated it many times in many different locations. He has since constructed “Amazonian Field”, “Field for the British Isles”, “European Field”, “Asian Field” and “Field for the Art Gallery of New South Wales”. All in all, more than 529,000 figures have been constructed. Gormley claims that the series of artworks represent the future generations and hose who will inherit the earth. The figures gaze up at the viewer with hollow, questioning eyes, as if asking the viewer to consider the impact that our species has on the world around it. Gormley says “We have the ability to foul the nest for ourselves and every other species, or do something about it”. Many people had a negative reaction to the “Field” series, claiming that Gormley had to right to claim them as his own work because they were constructed by family members and villagers, because of this, many figures have been stolen in protest. Field” is Gormley’s response to an issue that he felt very passionately about, and the arrangement of the figures clearly demonstrates how he intends to interact with the audience. His instalment gives the viewer the sense of being stared at by thousands of miniscule eyes. “Waste Man” was constructed in the summer of 2006. This massive sculpture stood over sixty three feet tall and eight feet wide. “Waste Man” was a community project, built by the people of Margate, UK. It was part of a series of works that utilised Gormley’s obsession with the idea of a community coming together to create an artwork.
Gormley collected thirty tons of waste by convincing members of the local community to donate household waste and old furniture and by enlisting the help of a local disposal service. Sadly, many members of the community thought that the idea of a massive sculpture was unnecessary, and so they pillaged the mound of waste for their own winter fires. The project took six weeks to complete, Fort a wooden frame was created, the frame was ten filled with large items of furniture and any remaining gaps were boarded up or stuffed with smaller waste objects, such as toilet seats, doors and picture frames.
The final product was a colossal man raising his arm in the air, with a large rectangular hole in his chest, around the area where a heart would be on a regular person. Due to the fact that “Waste Man” was built in the poorer area of Margate, and due also to the huge community effort that went into constructing “Waste Man” came to symbolise the forgotten in the community, and the overwhelming nature of human spirit, those “who had been dispossessed or refused a place, standing up defiantly to be recognised”.
It is speculated that Gormley was suggesting that even the poor and supposedly ‘unimportant’ people of Margate still had the right to a voice and the right to be heard. This idea was taken even further when “Waste Man” was burned, making it impossible to be ignored, and further demonstrating the refusal of the lower class to continue on without being heard. “Waste Man” was about more than creating art, “Waste Man” was Gormley’s way of making a statement, a symbol of the repressed people in our society and a refusal to sit idly by while people’s voices are going unheard. Still Falling” is the title of an early Gormley artwork. Created in 1983, “Still Falling” is a sculpture that has been carved into the side of a cliff. The image is that of a human, falling head-first down the cliff. Despite the position of the human, it seems quite peaceful, with its arms casually draped against its body. There is a suggestion that the figure isn’t so much “falling” as “gliding”. The figure is quite possibly a reflection of Gormley’s beliefs. After travelling through India and Sri Lanka, Gormley became a devout Buddhist, and many Buddhist beliefs can be interpreted form the falling figure.
The figure gives a positive feeling, a feeling of being at peace with its decent and not being worried by the sharp rocks beneath it. If the figure is indeed a representation of Gormley’s Buddhist beliefs, it could be suggested that the paleness of the stone around the figure represents the “Shining light of enlightenment”, enlightenment being an ultimate goal in Buddhism. It has been suggested that the figure will never stop falling, as it has become one with nature, and the area around it is embracing this fact and keeping it safe.
This is implied by the fact that the area that the angel is sculpture into is a slightly concave bowl shape, giving the feeling of safety and welcome. “Still Falling” represents Gormley’s attempt at imagination triumphing over common sense. While looking at the artwork, logically it is easy to realise that the figure will never all because it is carved into stone, but it has been carved with such grace and elegance that the viewer is tempted to believe that it’s natural surroundings are so welcoming of the angelic figure that they would never let it fall. Still Falling” continues Gormley’s fascination with group projects, an enormous team of specialists was required to etch the figure into the mountainside, and Gormley refused to use any modern technology, so the project took twice as much time and effort as it might have, due to the use of blocks and wedges. Gormley believed that this would bring his small community of stonemasons together, from the joy of creating art together in a pure sense. The setting of “Still Falling” has a lot of significance for Gormley. It was created at Tout
Quarry Sculpture Park, which is a [ark that was created especially for artists and sculptors to make their mark on nature. The park is part man mad, and part nature. This appeals to Gormley’s belief that “Nature is a blank canvas waiting for people to work with it rather than against it”. The intended audience for “Still Falling” is really all of London, as he created it solely to make the city more beautiful. Gormley seems to have a fascination with community projects and bringing people together, this is often reflected in his work, as are his spiritual beliefs and his ideas of how society should work.