This summer Tate St Ives will show a challenging group of sculptural works by Antony Gormley. The entire gallery space will be devoted to four major installations: Bed (1981); Field for the British Isles (1993); Still (1994) and Critical Mass (1995). Gormley is one of Britain’s most important contemporary sculptors and this exhibition of his work at Tate St Ives will be the largest display of works by one artist ever to be shown at the gallery.
The sculptures are dramatic installations that explore the connection between physical and metaphysical self and the body in relation to history and place. Field was made by a group of volunteers who were invited by Gormley to create a multitude of small figures out of thirty tons of clay, which were fired and placed to fill the gallery space. Each figure is unique, deriving its scale and shape from the hand of the person who made it. At Tate St Ives forty thousand figures face towards the viewer and this myriad of watching eyes is a haunting and emotional experience.
Critical Mass is a group of sixty solid iron figures taken from the artist’s own body and forming a lexicon of twelve basic positions from foetal to upright, which will be placed in the circular sea-facing gallery at Tate St Ives. ‘Critical mass’ is a term in physics for the necessary density in uranium for nuclear fission to take place. This installation acts against a background of modernism, in which the body lost its place in art and was alienated through industrialisation and war.
Still is a single lead body case of the artist’s daughter at the age of six days, and will be shown in isolation. Bed is made out of 12000 slices of bread arranged in layers out of which the artist has eaten his own volume in two halves and refers to the idea of stratification as in ‘bedrock’.
In Artists on Artists, an initiative which allows artists to choose works from the Tate Collection that they find inspirational, Gormley has chosen a selection of works by Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo, which will be complemented by a text he has written.
Antony Gormley was born in 1950 in London, where he continues to live and work. There will be a publication (200pp) to coincide with this exhibition, with essays by Will Self and Professor Stephen Levinson and an interview between the artist and Iwona Blazwick. The exhibition is generously supported by the Henry Moore Foundation.