A must-see: Antony Gormley at Xavier Hufkens

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Works of art I’ll never forget, part 37: standing on the terrace of London’s  Hayward Gallery, looking at the skyline and discovering 31 man-sized figures, placed on top of buildings in the near and far distance (pictures: here). I’ve since become intrigued by the work of British sculptor Antony Gormley. He is showing recent work at gallery Xavier Hufkens, Brussels. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover one of Britain’s most renowned artists.

Antony Gormley (59) certainly isn’t an artist’s artist. You want proof? Check out the live-stream for his project One & Other (click here): until 14 October people are allowed to spend an hour alone on the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square; day and night. Every hour, 24 hours a day, for 100 days without a break. More than 34.000 people applied for the 2.400 places.

People from Belgium may know Gormley (who was awarded the Turner Prize in ’94) for Another place: the iron statues he put on the beaches of De Panne, during Beaufort in 2003. And theatre go-ers might have seen his wooden boxes for the wonderful collaboration between Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Chinese Shaolin Monks from Henan, in Sutra. Right now he’s working on a huge project for the Dutch city of Lelystad, Exposure.

The human body is what Gormley focuses on, as anyone who’s going to Xavier Hufkens will notice. Most of the time he makes moulds of his own body and uses those for his sculptures. ‘I’ve never been interested in making statues. But I have been interested in asking what is the nature of the space a human being inhabits. What I try to show is the space where the body was; not to represent the body itself.’ (The Guardian, 2005)

The relationship between sculpture and space, that’s what Gormley is interested in. Bear that in mind, when you go to Xavier Hufkens. Upon entering, you’ll find the big room filled with a stainless steel construction, and you’ll be wondering: where’s the human body? What you have to know is that the space left open between all these sticks ís that of a human figure (ten times life size).

Antony Gormley 'Aperture' (2009)I was most impressed by one of his more recent, not yet titled works: a human figure laying on the ground (yes: it’s the figure cut out of Firmament III), inspired by Gormley’s recent experiments with bubbles, foams and polyhedra. Being alone with it, you feel that it’s doing something to your sense of space. I had the same strange feeling, upstairs, in the presence of Aperture, a man of steel, looking as if he could vanish in thin air at any moment. It reminded me of another Gormley-quote: ‘I think of (Jackson) Pollock as being the artist who managed, in the great works, to leave behind the need to make a symbol or an image. What he was left with was about energy and space and just being. And that’s what I’m trying to do, in a clumsy way.’  (The Sunday Times, 2008)

Of course, it’s a gallery show, which means there aren’t thát many works on display. But on the other hand: it’s for free. So do go and discover Antony Gormley. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 6 PM (info here). Last day: 22 October.

For my exclusive interview with Antony Gormley on the subject of beauty, click here.

(credits: Antony Gormley, SET (2009), Aperture (2009), courtesy Xavier Hufkens)

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