Antony Gormley

Preparatory Drawing for Bed


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Not on display
Antony Gormley born 1950
Pastel, felt-tip pen and ink on paper
Support: 2328 x 990 mm
Presented 2015


Preparatory Drawing for Bed 1980 was made by the British artist Antony Gormley as part of the planning for his early sculptural work Bed 1980–1 (Tate T0984). Bed is a double mirror-image representation of the artist’s own recumbent body (or the space it occupies) formed in the hollows eaten out of multiple layers of sliced white bread. The bread is assembled in a grid-like structure on aluminium panels on the ground, occupying approximately the dimensions of a standard double bed. For the sculpture Gormley used 8,640 slices of Mother’s Pride bread (minus those he ate in making the negative spaces), which he dried and dipped in paraffin wax before stacking and layering to produce the final form. The volume of the artist’s body is represented by empty space, the contours of which are defined by a surrounding bed of bread.

Preparatory Drawing for Bed includes lightly drawn outlines of slices of bread arranged in a grid. These lines create the impression of a loose mesh draped over the figure that lies at the centre of the large sheet of paper. Along one side of the drawing, the slices of bread are numbered one to seventeen. The silhouette of the artist’s body is defined with heavy lines. More delicately rendered lines – in colours ranging from dark purple to light blue – trace the inside area of the shape many times over in an approximation of a cartographer’s contour lines on a topographic map.

Gormley’s interest in the contours and three-dimensional volume of the body is apparent in Preparatory Drawing for Bed. The artist has described how the preparatory drawing was made: ‘Bed started as a drawing. I lay on the floor and my wife drew around me. I made this silhouette into a contour map, making an approximation of the volume of my body into two identical halves, mirror images of each other.’ (Antony Gormley, ‘Bread Works, 1979–1982’, undated,, accessed 23 May 2015.) The symmetry of the body contours in the drawing thus became, in the sculpture, a double representation, with the two halves of the work mirroring each other. In taking the artist’s own body as its subject in this way, Preparatory Drawing for Bed closely anticipates Gormley’s later body casts, including Three Ways: Mould, Hole and Passage 1981–2 (Tate T07015) and Untitled (For Francis) 1985 (Tate T05004).

Raised in a Catholic family and taught in a Benedictine boarding school, Gormley’s Bed may allude to the Eucharist, the Catholic ceremony in which bread symbolises the body of Christ. The pose of the figure in both Bed and Preparatory Drawing for Bed, with the legs drawn together and arms folded over the chest, is also suggestive of the pose of the dead. For Gormley, however, Bed also offers a more ‘natural’, even ‘primal’, example of sculpture’s traditional approach to matter:

Sculpture has traditionally been about imposing mind over matter by an act of intelligence and will. I was looking for a more natural process, and eating is the primal process by which matter is transformed into mind.
(Gormley, accessed 10 August 2015.)

Further reading
Antony Gormley, exhibition catalogue, Konsthall Malmö, Malmö 1993.
John Hutchinson, E.H. Gombrich, Lela B. Njatin and others, Antony Gormley, 2nd expanded edn, London 2000.

Helen Delaney
May 2015

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