Internationally acclaimed artist
Born in England in 1950, Gormley originally studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, reading archaeology, anthropology and art history. He spent several years in India before returning to England and studying art, concentrating on sculpture, at Central School of Art, Goldsmith’s College and the Slade School of Art.
The human figure dominates Antony Gormley’s work with most of his pieces starting off as plaster casts of his own body. These are then covered with sheet lead or act as internal moulds for other materials such as iron, concrete or plaster. Each sculpture then is like a new ‘skin’, covering the space previously occupied by his body. They are not however self-portraits but represent instead a kind of everyman.
Sculpture for Derry Walls (1987), saw the artist working in Derry, birthplace of his grandfather, as part of the UK wide TSWA 3D project. The three resulting sculptures were placed at three points on the city walls - the east wall, by the remains of the Walker Monument and the Bastion overlooking the Fountain estate. Each sculpture was made up of two identical cast-iron figures joined back to back. They hold a cruciform pose and were placed in such a way that one faced into the walled city and the other looked outwards.
In simple terms it can be said that the sculptures represent Derry’s two dominant religious communities, turning away from each other but paradoxically joined as one figure. They are separated by their religious, cultural and political difference but united in their Christianity and their shared existence as part of the human race. One of these sculptures will be given a permanent home on the East Wall in 2001.
Field for the British Isles
Gormley also exhibited in the Orchard Gallery in Derry in 1995. Entitled Field this work consisted of thousands of little terracotta figures. These completely filled the viewing space excluding the viewer who could only return their gaze from across the gallery’s threshold. Derry’s annual Feis (held in St Columb’s Hall directly above the gallery) coincided with the exhibition and the festival’s Irish dancers would come down and practice before this very stoic audience.
More recent works include rectangular concrete blocks that contain negative casts of the artist’s body and cast-iron pieces which result from imagined multiple layers or ripples emanating from the original cast figures.
Twenty Four Hours (1) (1988):
Gormley’s magnificent creations in his own image provide welcome relief from some of the more abstract forms that dominate contemporary sculpture. Whilst his work poses obvious religious and spiritual questions about the nature of existence, his pieces are warm and life-affirming in a fashionably nihilistic art world.