Antony Gormley Seed 1985

Artwork details

Artist
Antony Gormley born 1950
Title
Seed
Date 1985
Medium Charcoal and oil paint on paper
Dimensions Support: 1367 x 1014 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Presented by the Weltkunst Foundation 1986
Reference
T04860
Not on display

Catalogue entry

T04860 Seed 1985

Oil and charcoal on wove paper 1367 × 1014 (53 7/8 × 40)
Inscribed 'Antony Gormley | ‘85’ on back b.l.
Presented by the Weltkunst Foundation 1986
Exh: Antony Gormley, Victoria Miro Gallery, Feb.–March 1986 (no cat.); Natural Order: Recent European Sculpture from the Tate's Collection, Tate Gallery Liverpool, July 1992–Jan. 1993 (no number, repr. p.6); Sculptors' Drawings: Presented by the Weltkunst Foundation, Tate Gallery, July–Oct. 1994 (no number, repr. front cover)
Lit: Penelope Curtis, ‘Natural Order’ in Natural Order: Recent European Sculpture from the Tate's Collection, exh. cat., Tate Gallery Liverpool 1992, p.6, repr.; Catherine Kinley, Sculptors' Drawings: Presented by the Weltkunst Foundation, Tate Gallery 1994, exh. broadsheet, [p.3], repr. front cover

In ‘Seed’ two black hemispherical shapes enclose a crouching male figure. The image appears to evoke the embryonic growth of a root and stalk within a seed. Gormley's drawings often allude to pairs of limbs or to internal organs and the shapes in T04860 could be compared to lungs or kidneys. In a conversation with the compiler on 31 September 1990, Gormley described ‘Seed’ as having to do with the two hemispheres of the brain and he drew an analogy with a kernel held within the flesh of a fruit.

Expanding on this point, Gormley wrote in a letter dated 7 April 1995:

Fruit also sets up a tension between stasis and movement which could also be thought of as the depiction of the dynamic between thought and action or internal & external processes. The central body form is in a swimming position but also suggests the drawing together of the limbs before impulsive action. There is a division between the two halves which is a void passage that connects the mouth to the genitals: the axis of energy also alluded to in ‘Space’ [T 04875, see following entry]. In this drawing as in the expansion pieces the body has become the seed from which a second ‘externalised’ body emanates. The shapes of these black areas while referring to lungs & to the twinning of internal organs also makes reference to the orbit of the limbs in swimming (particularly the breast stroke). Both breath & the reach of the limbs are a bridge between the self & non-self or the conscious & elemental worlds, the subject of both drawings.

He added that he thought it an important work for understanding his later sculpture.

‘Seed’ and ‘Space’ were among a group of fourteen closely related drawings of roughly the same dimensions, exhibited together at the Victoria Miro Gallery in 1986. Apart from T 04860 and T 04875, five of these drawings depicted standing figures, one with arms outstretched. A sixth was divided into six black rectangles, suggestive of a window or grid. The remaining images were of a small coracle-like boat, a hut on a headland with water behind it, a tree and a cloud-like formation suspended over four heads. There was no catalogue for this exhibition but a number of similar works have been illustrated in Antony Gormley Drawings, Milan and New York 1985, and in Antony Gormley, exh. cat., The Contemporary Art Gallery, Seibu Department Store, Tokyo 1987. The drawings were made in the top floor studio of the house where Gormley then lived, in Talfourd Road, south London.

In conversation with the compiler (31 August 1990) Gormley said that the relationship between his drawings and his sculpture was very important. However, whereas his sculptures are made over a period of time (‘I make everything three times ... it's a very protracted process’), his drawings are completely unedited. ‘I just go into the drawing studio and allow whatever happens to happen and afterwards drawings are selected from a given period and put together [as a group].’ Gormley described himself as being at the ‘disposal’ of the drawing process, not knowing what, if anything, would come out of them when first starting a work on paper. The artist said that his drawings may be seen like a diary. They are about things that happen to him but not necessarily the things to which he accords the most significance at the time.

Drawing enables Gormley to represent in a direct and intuitive manner his experience of inhabiting his own body in contrast to his more painstaking technique when making sculpture. Michael Newson has written that in Gormley's drawings, ‘the body is not so much seen from the outside as felt from the inside’ (Michael Newman, ‘Antony Gormley's Drawings’, in Antony Gormley, exh. cat., The Contemporary Art Gallery, Seibu Department Stores, Tokyo 1987, [p.4]). Newman describes how the figures in the drawings interact with the space and the light and dark areas around them. ‘The world is a container for the body which in turn is a vessel ... the body can be opened up, the inside extruded into the outside ... the process of making the drawings is an analogy to the state of becoming and change in which we all live’ (ibid.).

In conversation (31 August 1990) the artist said ‘a drawing is a diagram ... the best ones embody a principle. However imperfect, they are not limited by what they refer to, they go beyond it’.

Closely related to T04860 is ‘Mould’, 1981 (charcoal and oil on paper, repr. Antony Gormley, exh. cat., Städtische Galerie Regensburg 1985, p.40). This depicts a man in a foetal position, floating in a black shape resembling a kidney or womb. The man is connected to the ‘outside’ by a narrow white channel resembling an airpipe connected to his mouth.

The artist has approved this entry.

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996

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