/ The London Traveler
London — By Andrea Kirkby on June 12, 2010 at 8:31 am
Filed under: Art, featuredarticle

Scary Gormley at White Cube

There’s always been something a little bit scary about Antony Gormley’s art – the sheer size of the Angel of the North, the wobbly precariousness of his ‘energy’ sculptures, the loneliness of his figures on the beach.

One of Gormley's strange figures stares down at us. What is it thinking? Will it jump?

His new exhibition at White Cube is even scarier. Sudden flashing bright white lights disorientate the visitor; the huge, eerily glowing ’space frames’ seem to create a place where we’re at risk of being carved up, sliced, lasered into pieces.

In another room, you have to pick your way through casts of the artist’s body jumbled together, like a maze made out of corpses. It’s claustrophobic and disturbing.

This isn’t art to be looked at, safely tucked away on a wall. It’s not art in a neat little box that you can take a photo of, and then go on your way. It’s art that has to be experienced, a sort of architecture of nightmares that you have to walk through, finding your way, letting your perceptions be altered and your emotions tampered with. It’s a journey you have to make.

The glowing frames mess with your senses. It’s as if Gormley has turned the gallery into a Tardis – the frames seem to create a space that’s bigger than the inside of the building. All the frames are interconnected, so that as you move, the vistas change; what you visualised as a wall becomes a door, what looked like a way through is suddenly barred. Everything is uncertain; false perspectives are suggested until you realise your sense of distance and depth is telling you lies, that you can’t tell where you are or what you’re seeing.

And there’s nothing cheap or tricksy about the way Gormley does it. His cool blue light, the exact geometry and mathematics that he uses (the sum of the spaces contained by the frameworks adds up to the same volume as that of the gallery itself), create an art work of surprising beauty as well as beautiful surprises.

Throughout his career Gormley has made casts of his own body, and explored what it means to be in a human body – what our energies feel like, how we exist physically. Now, he’s slowly exploring the nature of perception itself, both through the cast bodies, and through the strange frames that create an abstract – and yet highly emotionally charged – world. You might even look at this exhibition as an exploration of the void; what happens when you stare at the sun for so long that you go blind. It’s uncompromising stuff and difficult to like – none of the cuddly, lovable solidity of the Angel of the North – but perhaps it’s some of his best work. It certainly fascinates… and enrages, too, to judge by some gallery-goers’ reactions.

I don’t always like White Cube exhibitions, but sometimes the gallery really comes out with a stunner. And this, I think, is one of those times. Definitely worth a visit – but it’s only on till 10 July, so make sure not to miss it.

Antony Gormley: Test Sites

where: White Cube Gallery, Mason’s Yard [map]

when: till 10 July, 10-6 Tues-Sat

how much: free

Photo by ahisget on flickr

Related places:
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    White Cube, 25-26 Mason's Yard, Westminster, City of London SW1Y 6BU
    White Cube, 25-26 Mason's Yard, Westminster, City of London SW1Y 6BU, UK
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Tags: Art, featuredarticle


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