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‘Antony Gormley: In Formation’ Review - White Cube Manson’s Yard

13th November 2019 – 18th January 2020



Born Londoner Antony Gormley is best known for his Angel of the North, an enormous sculpture erected outside of Newcastle. The artist works with the relationship between a human being and a material or space—our content as well as distant and harsh elements, such as metal. We can see how he explores this connection not only in the Angel of the North but also in his most recent exhibition, In Formation. He eventually aims to ‘materialise space at the other side of appearance’, as he claimed in BBC documentary from Autumn 2015, Antony Gormley: Being Human.

Installation View. Image courtesy of White Cube's website

In Formation represents the side of human nature that primarily relies on the space around them. His ‘Stack’ sculptures resemble the heaviness of the human mind as the big stones lean to the wall, unable to support themselves. However, Antony Gormley abandons the fundamental laws of physics, placing the more massive blocks onto the small, vertically placed ones. This creates a resembles of human leaning his head against the wall. The material he uses for the blocks also adds to the idea of heaviness – iron. These enormous blocks of metal might seem to alienate the viewer, but their unique placement to the wall creates a feeling of urgency, which we feel almost daily in our lives.

Underneath the White Cube Mason’s Yard gallery, we can see ‘Aggregates’, blocks built in human shape. I found the

the central sculpture, where the human figure lies on the ground with a big block of stone placed on their chest and stomach area, particularly fascinating. The stone and the character are connected by pure mass, with the human being apparently unable to move. However, the apparentness of the relationship is the question a viewer must ask when he sees the sculpture. Does the human figure want to move out from the block? Or are they interconnected, existing in harmony? To answer the question, one must move to other block sculptures and explore more.

Installation View. Image courtesy of White Cube's website

The other sculptures in the ‘Aggregates’ series might not seem human at first sight. When we go around them, we can slowly recognise human shapes. These shapes often perform a very abnormal activity – being upside down or in other seemingly impossible positions. Again, they rely heavily on their foundational material, connecting with the blocks and becoming one with them.

All these sculptures raise the question of if we as human beings are a part of the space around us. For now, it seems we lost connection to our environment, becoming more and more ignorant of things around us. Modern life requires looking at a screen all day long or commuting in a packed tube. In Formation makes us look back and around us, question our position in space and realise our dependence on it.

Installation View. Image courtesy of White Cube's website

The title of the exhibitions says much about its theme. We need to evaluate the ‘form’ as well as the ‘information’ we get in our daily lives. The positioning of the sculptures much helped to support these ideas, going from ‘Stack’ to ‘Aggregates’, we can at first become familiar with our mind and then, going downstairs, with our form.

There is also another room in the gallery in which stands only one sculpture. It is an almost pure cube made from little ones. If you follow my journey through the gallery and go to this room as the last one, you suddenly feel so familiar and accepting of the whole concept. The cube is the final sculpture of the exhibition, inviting you to settle down in your own space and becoming one with it. The display left me with an uncertain feeling of loss by again re-establishing the relationship with space.

Edited by Charlee Kieser, Deputy Digital Editor

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