Sir Antony Gormley (b. 1950) is one of the most significant contemporary sculptors, winner of the Turner Prize (1994) and many other important awards, Knight of the Order of the British Empire (2014).
His work is a brilliant example of the continuous break with the abstract minimalism and immaterial conceptual practices, with an aim to rediscover humanistic grounds of art, and the visual image of the human being. Gormley uses his own body as his primary subject and research instrument, as it is well familiar and always available to him. He has developed a special sculptural technology that involves casts from living models. However, achieving naturalistic accuracy is not his main goal; Gormley prefers to generalize his forms, to dissect them into fragments, and to bring them closer to symbolic state.
For Gormley, sculpture is not so much a physical object as a way of revealing the trace left in space by a human being. This is why many of his works can be understood only in relation to the landscape and environment for which they were created. Antony Gormley’s figures interact actively with their surroundings and the viewer, overcoming the classical distance between an artwork and a person who perceives it.
Gormley is constantly in a dialogue with the classical heritage. On the one hand, his own academic training and deep interest in the best examples of the past (for instance, Greek archaic sculpture or Vitruvian theory of proportions) motivated the artist to turn specifically to the issues of the body, to capturing the visible presence of humans in the world. On the other hand, Gormley is not afraid to argue with the old masters, as he is convinced that at a certain point sculpture took the wrong path in its attempts to convey the fleeting moments, movements, and conditions in inert and weighty materials.
Gormley maintains that sculpture should not aim at narrative but rather at calm and static contemplation, which would make the viewer stop and get a new sensation of his or her own self in space. As the artist puts it, his figures “are being, not doing, and they are waiting. They have time, we have consciousness, and they are waiting for the viewer’s thoughts and feelings. This is the absolute antithesis of heroic sculpture” (fragment of an interview for The Telegraph, 2012).