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British sculptor Antony Gormley presents ‘Living Time’ at TAG Museum, China

Curated by Fan Di'an, Living Time displays over 35 sculptures and sculptural installations which present Antony Gormley’s inquiry into spaces as stages of becoming.

by STIRworldPublished on : Sep 10, 2023

TAG Art Museum in China has unveiled Living Time, a comprehensive presentation of the British artist and sculptor, Sir Antony Mark David Gormley OBE RA. Curated by Fan Di'an, the art exhibition is a compilation of almost four decades of the contemporary artist's oeuvre—a continuous inquiry into the guiding principle of navigating space as a measure of feeling, behaviour, and thought. Within his practice, Antony Gormley maps the abstract relation or distance between humans and our ultimate spatial summit, the cosmos, through intuitive geometry. Gormley's work has been widely exhibited, throughout the United Kingdom and internationally as well, with the sculptor having been the recipient of numerous awards throughout his career, including the Turner Prize in 1994.

Antony Gormley at Living Time , 2023, Exhibition view at TAG Art Museum, Qingdao, 2023 | STIRworld
Antony Gormley at Living Time, 2023, Exhibition view at TAG Art Museum, Qingdao, 2023 Image: © Antony Gormley, © Chao Qixuan

Living Time activates two of the museum's halls with over 35 sculptures and sculptural installations. In one of the hall rooms, the curatorial positioning of the sculptures follows the coordinates of a grid corresponding to the enclosed space of the hall. The pieces lapse across chronology and medium throughout the curation, allowing viewers to feel the total presence of each sculptural installation. Plateau (1985–86), a sculpture of a laying human figure with longitudes and latitudes marking a grid, is perhaps a subtle reminder that humans embody space and is one of Gormley's early lead works. Similarly, the sculpture Diaphragm (1995) uses the division of horizontal and vertical axes to signify the standing human body as a scope of spatial interiors.

Living Time , Hall 4,  TAG Art Museum, Qingdao, 2023  | Living Time | Antony Gormley | STIRworld
Living Time, Hall 4, TAG Art Museum, Qingdao, 2023 Image: © Antony Gormley, © Huang Shaoli

Other noteworthy steel and iron sculptures include Concentrate I (2003), Gormley's first attempt to metamorphose the intangible 'pixel' into a physical mass. Mean III (2016) is an abstract sculpture of the human body represented in a highly reduced steel grid. Another abstract interpretation of the human body can be identified in the sculpture titled Tuck II (2018), which refers to megalithic structures in which the body language is manifested in the precarious construction of slabs.

Display view of Living Time at TAG Art Museum, Qingdao, 2023 | Living Time | Antony Gormley | STIRworld
Display view of Living Time at TAG Art Museum, Qingdao, 2023 Image: © Antony Gormley, © Huang Shaoli

The exhibition comes to a crescendo in the following hall room with four sculptures presented as Gormley’s Expansion Works. These works include Body (1991/93) and Fruit (1991/92), hovering above the ground through suspension cables, while sculptural installations titled Earth (1991/93) and End Product (1990/93) honour gravity and are stationary against the ground. Gormley refers to these sculpture art pieces as “contained explosions.” These works conceptually represent the edges of the skin's surface extending outward. In this conceptual process, the subject transcends beyond the physical limits of the human body, i.e. the skin, into an investigation of archaea, an early cellular life form, or even fruits and vegetables.

Installation view of Living Time at TAG Art Museum, Qingdao, 2023 | Living Time | Antony Gormley | STIRworld
Installation view of Living Time at TAG Art Museum, Qingdao, 2023 Image: © Antony Gormley, © Huang Shaoli

Di'an, the curator, commented in the official statement, "As a world-renowned contemporary artist, the opening of Antony Gormley's solo exhibition at TAG Art Museum offers a rare opportunity for us to understand his unique artistic concepts and visually appealing artistic language. The exhibition, Living Time, reveals the artist's inquiry into the subjects of body and space, life and world, human and nature, and material and intelligence, showing the potential and power of the activated and empowered ancient art form, sculpture. TAG Art Museum introduces Gormley's art to China to promote artistic exchanges between China and the world. His artworks constitute a space for wandering, dialogue, and even philosophical thinking or inspiration through the viewer's gaze. This is the remarkable achievement of the communication between Chinese art and international art."

Living Time comes nearly 30 years after Gormley's first trip to China. In 1995, the artist came to the region to conduct research for Asian Field (2003), an installation that was made by around 300 people of all ages from Xiangshan village (now Huadong Town in Guangzhou city). These artists created approximately 200,000 clay figurines to build up the installation, which is meant to be experienced from a single vantage point. As the viewer gazes across a sea of clay figures, the gaze of the figurines manifests, and the installation looks back at its viewer.

Sculptural Installation at Living Time at TAG Art Museum, Qingdao, 2023 | Living Time | Antony Gormley | STIRworld
Sculptural Installation at Living Time at TAG Art Museum, Qingdao, 2023 Image: © Antony Gormley, © Huang Shaoli

Speaking about its lasting impact on his life and work as a sculpture artist, Gormley remarked: "I realised that China has a relationship with the pixel dating back 2000 years in treating the brick as a regular geometric unit that nevertheless relates to the embodied world. Going around China and seeing brick factories and the grey bricks of Nanjing's city wall, for example, allowed me to see an extraordinary culture that is to do with formalising a relationship with earth…"

Gormley’s presentation at Living Time conceptualises the human body as a medium to measure space, a reinterpretation of space as stages of becoming. In that sense, Gormley reminds us that humans also embody space, within which all imagination, creativity, and experience arises. It evokes a subliminal idea that the infinite space, cosmos, and everything it encompasses is a marriage of mathematics and poetry. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, which features extensive installation photography and essays by the art curator, producer Meng Xianwei, and scholar Yang Beichen. Additionally, a conversation between Gormley and Hans Ulrich Obrist will situate the exhibition within Gormley's larger practice and his long history of engagement with China.  

(Text by Sakhi Sobti, (Asst. Editorial Coordinator (Arts))

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