Anthony Gormley: Subject

As I’ve been working in Cambridge the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to explore the city in more depth and take in the beautiful college architecture and sights of Cambridge during my lunch breaks. One place on the top of my list of things to visit was Kettle’s Yard Art Gallery, which happens to be 5 minutes down the road from my office! Sadly when I visited I didn’t get a chance to go into the main gallery area of the house, but hopefully, I’ll be able to visit the house in another lunch break in the coming weeks! However, I did manage to have a wander around the beautiful new gallery space which is currently exhibiting Anthony Gormley: Subject. The exhibition ends on Bank Holiday Monday so make sure you get down quick before it ends; it would make a great Bank Holiday day out!

After visiting the Hepworth Gallery recently (which you can read about in this post here), I was very much looking forward to the exhibition and experiencing some more sculpture by such a prolific artist. Gormley is a British sculptor best known for his work the Angel of the North, a large public sculpture in Gateshead in the North of England. His work predominantly focusses on the human body, using his own body as a cast in many of his pieces.

Gormley’s work has been specifically devised for the new spaces in Kettle’s Yard and predominantly highlights the ways sculpture can occupy a space and the body of the viewer. When I first saw there were only five pieces in the gallery, I have to admit I was a bit underwhelmed but actually seeing the exhibition completely changed my perspective. I felt that having so few pieces really made the visitors interact and take time to experience each piece fully, instead of simply walking around the gallery glancing at the artwork. The exhibition was intended to explore and experiment with space, I think it definitely achieved this through not only the artwork but the way people travelled through the gallery. With only one piece in each room, the visitors are forced into a certain section of the gallery to view the artwork, whether it’s a corner, balcony or even outside through a window. His works are often see-through, creating almost a shadow or trace of where the body has been, mirrored through the visitors themselves circulating in areas of the galleries.

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The first piece of the exhibition is Subject, a cast of the body created through a grid of steel bars, using co-ordinates to compose a map of the body. The figure is both solid and at the same time quite open with visible gaps in its structure; in some areas it’s difficult to tell how the body is connecting and standing as a stable structure. The piece is intended to capture a fleeting moment of glancing at the floor; the juxtaposition between solidity and permeable nature of the piece helps to perfectly create this idea of a transient moment.

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Edge III is installed in a gallery room at 90 degrees to the wall, facing the ceiling. The work is composed of a solid mass of iron, weighing 630 kilos, made using a cast of the Gormley’s body. The sheer weight and solidity of the piece contrasts greatly from Subject and makes the viewer question how it appears to hover above the floor and appear so stable. The piece was also positioned relatively close to the door, making the visitor stall as they enter the gallery space, due to its unexpected position, challenging their steady progression through the spaces.

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One piece that could easily be missed when walking through the galleries is Co-ordinate IV, composed of two taut lines of steel travelling through the galleries at exactly 90 degrees. A third bar goes vertically through the Sackler Gallery space in which Subject is displayed. The bars cross the space without touching despite appearing to intersect from many angles. I like how this piece draws all the others together, challenging the wall divisions and joining the work as one collective piece.

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Slip I can be viewed from Castle Street outside the gallery, the balcony type area above the Clore Learning Space and from below in the learning space itself. The sculpture is composed of fine steel rods, which create a cage-like object, with a similarly constructed body within the cage. The cage itself is actually the shape of the body, enlarged, and therefore confusing its identifying features. The inner body can be moved within the outer structure and both are suspended from the ceiling, combined with their diving position, the sculpture captures a fleeting moment, quite like Subject.

The final piece, Infinite Cube II was my favourite of the exhibition. The piece is created using mirrored glass with internal copper wires and LED lights to form a cube. The glass reflects the LEDs, casting light across the room in a luminescent glow. As you move around the piece, the paths of wire and LED changes to reflect different patterns and expressions of light. You could spend hours gazing at the piece, trying to take it all in!! The piece was originally made in memory of Gormley’s friend Gabriel Mitchell, who died in 2012, aged 38. The two had talked of creating a cube with the possibilities of infinite expansion.

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There was also a small selection of Gormley’s sketchbooks showing the thought process behind some of his work.

Hope you enjoyed this post, here’s the Kettle’s Yard website if you wanted more information on the exhibition and gallery. If you’re sadly unable to make it this weekend  Anthony Gormley’s website is also a great way to explore Gormley’s work and check out any upcoming exhibitions!

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