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Review: Anthony Gormley, 'Body Politic' at the White Cube Bermondsey

★★★★★


'Resting Place' by Anthony Gormley, 2023. Photo by Faye Elder


On 22nd November, White Cube gallery, based in Bermondsey, opened its doors for a new exhibition: ‘Body Politic’ by Antony Gormley. Featuring five bodies of his work that “investigates our species’ relationship with its industrially made habitat”, White Cube hosts a selection of Gormley’s abstract sculptures that offer a unique look at identity and belonging.


From the outside of the gallery, you are met with the first sculpture: a white, concrete model that roughly resembles the human body. Eight of these sculptures line the gallery sporadically, from the courtyard to the corridor of the gallery. Each are different but remain similar in their abstract resemblance of humanity through a square carved hole that connotes a mouth. Gormley notes that they are “intimate bunkers for one”, a harrowing concept that adds an unnerving undertone to this collection.


The theme of the human body encapsulates the exhibition. In each room you will find a different take on human bodies using clay, iron, concrete and steel that are used to create these phenomenal, large sculptures in a nod to the industrial age. These sculptures demand attention. At first, they appear confounding but once the human figure emerges, a vast range of bodies confuse and contort.


One room shows an eighteen-minute video that explains some of the pieces and gives more of an insight into Gormley’s intentions. He suggests that these pieces consider identity and belonging as well as the self and other. This video also shows the intricate and long process of creating these sculptures, from the raw materials to the final piece. It’s a fascinating watch, and I would suggest revisiting each piece after watching the video as it gives another layer to the experience and allows you to view these pieces in a new light.


My favourite part of the exhibition was Resting Place (2023). When you first walk into the room, you are met with sculptures that seem to resemble buildings but on closer inspection, it is in fact 234 ‘bodies’ formed of fired clay blocks that are arranged across the gallery floor in a variety of positions. You are able to walk amongst the figures, enabling you to get a close look at each one. The interactive nature of this piece in particular, but also of the exhibition overall, gave a distinctive feel that separates it from most other exhibitions I have visited. Being able to get so close to the pieces allowed me to appreciate and investigate the pieces on a more personal level. It allowed me to spot markings or handprints on the materials that offer a stark reminder of the sheer amount of work that goes into creating them.


Although not an overly large exhibition, you could certainly spend an hour observing these sculptures. It is certainly an intriguing exhibition, and the sculptures evoke both awe and contemplation in their grandeur. If you have a couple of hours to spare, I’d definitely head over to White Cube before 28th January to check out ‘Body Politic’ – it’s a refreshing yet alternative exploration of the human body and identity.


Anthony Gormley, 'Body Politic' is on at the White Cube Bermondsey until January 21st.

Free admission.

 

Edited by Samuel Blackburn

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