As an erstwhile resident of the Northeast I have been partial to the work of Antony Gormley for some time. The Angel of the North went up in 1998, the year I began my student days in the Toon, and it has always been somewhat of a totem for me. (And indeed for the people of the Northeast who though skeptical at first, have warmed to it considerably). Since then, Gormley has been the master of public art; indeed he’s probably done more than most to detoxify the term (Mr Cameron take note). Now though, Gormley’s gone inside. His first exhibition at the White Cube is still rooted in a sense of precision placement but Model is a direct response to the environs of the South Gallery and promises to explore our understanding and experiences of architecture. It is very much an addition to his oeuvre of the body.
One word being bandied about is ‘vast’ – and that pleases me. As long we can walk round his art, in his art, through his art, and can enjoy that trademark sense of expanse and majesty yet still be haunted by a sense of melancholy, then there’ll be no complaints from this quarter. Indeed, though many observers argue he asks the public to engage with a communal consciousness in public spaces (see Southbank’s Event Horizon) Gormley insists his art is ‘an invitation for you to think of yourself being there’. (I have to say I was glad I wasn’t there as I watched my mate knock up a flatpack shed in the rain on the fourth plinth). But always with Gormley there is a genuine sense of ‘we’re in this together’, even if we’re understanding it in different ways. There is a uniformity and a thorough thread to his work that gives his art that vital everyman quality – and we like that. (Words: Ed Spencer)
Model is on at White Cube Gallery Bermondsey until February 10, 2013. For more info, visit http://whitecube.com.