Antony Gormley, 'Three Ways: Mould, Hole and Passage' 1981-2

Antony Gormley
Three Ways: Mould, Hole and Passage 1981-2
Lead sheet and plaster
object: 620 x 995 x 510 mm, 90 kg object: 625 x 1230 x 800 mm, 110 kg object: 310 x 2110 x 570 mm, 110 kg
Purchased 1995© Antony Gormley and Jay Jopling/White Cube (London)

Antony Gormley was born in Britain in 1950. He spent several years in India, where he developed an interest in Buddhism, before returning to London to study sculpture. His works include the Field series, made in collaboration with communities around the world. He lives and works in London.

The sculptures in this room, like most of Antony Gormley’s work, are made from casts of the artist’s body. Working with an assistant, Gormley wraps himself in cling-film, scrim (a type of jute cloth) and wet plaster. When the plaster has hardened, he is cut out of the mould. The cast is then reassembled, reinforced and covered in lead.

Far from being self-portraits, however, Gormley’s sculptures represent a kind of Everyman. ‘I am trying to make sculpture from the inside by using my body as the instrument and the material’, he has said. ‘I simply use my body as a starting point. I don’t want to limit my sculptures autobiographically’.

The decision to create figurative pieces and use his body as a medium sets Gormley’s work apart from the more abstract sculpture of many of his contemporaries. He also makes numerous references in his work to mythology, history and religion - the latter perhaps inspired by his strict Catholic upbringing. Untitled (for Francis), for instance, bears the name and stigmata of a Christian martyr, while his 20-metre-high Angel of the North on the A1 near Newcastle, could be a Christ figure on the cross, a kind of Icarus longing to fly, or some modern amalgam of man and aeronautical machine.

Other figures are less overt in their religious references, yet still seem imbued with a certain spirituality. The relationship between the figures in Three Ways: Mould, Hole and Passage, is deliberately ambiguous. Is this a single figure moving between different states of being, or three different people involved in a private dialogue or ceremony? We are almost intruding as we walk between the intimate trio. By making his sculptures interact with the gallery space, Gormley implicates the viewer’s own body in his work: ‘The space that the work is installed in is part of the work’, he has said.