Issue Number: 94
The Hayward’s director, Ralph Rugoff, talks to Antony Gormley RA about his ambitious exhibition of new work.
Antony Gormley RA with 'Spacestation', a work in progress, in his studio Photograph Bill Burlington.
Suspended from the ceiling of Antony Gormley’s studio in King’s Cross hangs a mass of fine webs of steel, which on closer inspection seem like cocoons defining negative body forms. The sculptures are a series of new works specially conceived for the Hayward, which will house a major show of his work this spring.
The new pieces move Gormley’s art in a significant direction, with a focus on perception and transformation. These experiential works will be punctuated with pieces from the last three decades, so that visitors will encounter the familiar alongside works that will challenge their preconceptions about the artist’s practice.
Gormley is a major and popular figure in British art, so it is perhaps surprising to learn that this is his first large-scale exhibition at a London gallery in over 25 years. It is also one of the most ambitious shows staged by the Hayward in recent years, challenging the very fabric of the building itself. The exhibition spreads out into the city too, as the Hayward has commissioned Gormley to create a dynamic, interactive public art project. Event Horizon will feature sculptural casts of the artist’s body on rooftops and public walkways across central London, dramatically transforming the skyline.
Viewed from the vantage point of the Hayward, the works are spread over a substantial area both north and south of the Thames, with some figures clearly visible and others sensed only as distant presences on the horizon. Gormley describes how the project tackles ‘the palpable versus the perceptual, the relationship between the real and the image’. The aim of Event Horizon is to encourage people to look afresh at the familiar London skyline, to explore how they interact with their everyday surroundings.
As Gormley himself points out, ‘Animating this lost horizon with foreign bodies, they make this inherited, shared built environment into a model – a representation of itself – allowing us, perhaps, to think about this entirely constructed environment as a picture in which we are implied.’
Antony Gormley, Hayward Gallery, London (020 7921 0813; www.southbankcentre.co.uk ), 17 May–19 Aug