Saturday, August 25, 2007

From Blind Light to Inner Light

Antony Gormley's Event Horizon, 2007

“You could say that there are two very discrete and almost oppositional places where a sculpture belongs. One is physical: in a landscape or a room, and the other is in the imagination of the viewer, in his/her experience and memory. They are equally important and in many senses the work is there waiting – almost like a trap for the life of the viewer to come and fill it, or inhabit it. And then once “captured” the art – or its arising – inhabits him or her.”[1]



Antony Gormley’s Blind Light (17 May-19 Aug 2007) at the Hayward Gallery presents a new series of installations accompanied by earlier sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs.

Other than featuring a series of brand new monumental works specially conceived for The Hayward’s distinctive spaces; the exhibition includes one of the largest ever urban public art commissions called Event Horizon, which features sculptural casts of the artist’s body on rooftops and public walkways across central London. The life-size figures casts out of the artist’s body spreads outwards from The Hayward in all directions over a 1.5 sq km area, dramatically transforming the city skyline.

The Blind Light installation is one of the focal pieces of the exhibition. It has a large white glass box using ultrasonic humidifiers to create a thick fog like atmosphere with very limited visibility; the viewers can only see each other within inches. This powerful piece exposes our feeling of uncertainty; I strangely experience the feeling of submitting myself to an endless ground upon entering the installation. I felt almost blanked and being cut off from the external space when trapped and lost in the bright white light. It is close to meditation process where one redirecting himself to focus and aware of his inner space, but adding a chance taking element relies on the instinct. The piece makes us aware of the space our bodies inhabit but somehow take for granted.

Blind Light, 2007

In one of the exhibition room displays a spectacular series of suspended figures created in light-infused webs of steel, are shown alongside a selection of works from the last three decades. In this, Gormley described, “The bundles of nothing are the most dematerialised works I have ever made… is the closet I get to Brancusi’s notion that you can turn an object into light. He did it by polishing sculptures, whereas I have tried to do it by abandoning weight and mass and dissolving surface.”[2]

Antony Mark David Gormley OBE (born 30 August 1950) is an English sculptor. His best known works include the Angel of the North, a public sculpture in Gateshead and Another Place on Crosby Beach near Liverpool. Born the youngest of seven children, Gormley grew up in a well off family in Hampstead. “After taking a degree in archaeology, anthropology and art history at trinity college, Cambridge, he went to India, where he became interested in Buddhism and studied Vipassana meditation. Three years later he returned to England to study at the Central School of Art, Goldsmith College and the Slade School of Fine Art”.[3] His career was said “given early support by Nicholas Serota who had been a near contemporary of Gormley's at Cambridge giving him a solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in1981”.[4] Gormley said: “The body is our first habitation, the building our second. I wanted to use the form of this second body, architecture, to make concentrated volumes out of a personal space that carries the memory of an absent self …”[5]

He began making moulds of his own body in 1980. Almost all of his work takes the human body as its subject, with his own body used as the basis for metal casts. He describes his work as "an attempt to materialise the place at the other side of appearance where we all live."[6] Many of his works are based on moulds taken from his own body, or as he described, "the only part of the material world that I live inside."[7] His work attempts to treat the body not as a thing but a place to identify common conditions experience by human beings. The non-symbolic quality of his work is indexical traces of real event of real body in time. “His belief that the spiritual and physical selves are inseparable is reflected in works such as Land, Sea and Air II (1982). Three figures, crouching, kneeling and standing, were placed on the seashore, embodying the process of Buddhist spiritual awareness. The work also referred to the earthly condition of the body and man's relationship with his surroundings.”[8]

In regard to his experience on Buddhism, Gormley revealed in the BBC Radio 3 interview with John Tusa, he said, “I was very fortunate to meet S N Goenka in India when I did, and to learn you know a form of meditation that, that was completely direct. There was no, there were no mantras. There was no mysticism. It was simply about learning how to sit still and watch what happens, very similar to Zen Buddhists...” Tusa then asked, “do you still do that? Can you still do those disciplines?” “Yes I, I still do, I, I think that the majority of my work comes out of exactly that discipline. The process of being moulded for me has become a meditative process. It's a time in which you use your will actually to defeat your will, and that, that in a way is evoked in the moulding process where you have to maintain your stillness but then up to a certain point, and then after that point your freedom of choice is determined by that act of will that preceded it, so you can't move because you're actually completely imprisoned in this mould.”[9]

During the interview Tusa again asked: “When you had your conversation with Ernst Gombrich there was one remark he made which I want to raise with you now, he said, ‘art is a game with only one rule, and the rule is that so long as you think that you can do better you must do it even if it means starting again’. Do you accept that and do you live up to that challenge yourself?” Gormley remarked:

”It's absolutely the only way of living I think. If there is any way in which something can be improved and you don't follow that way, you've failed yourself.”

Over the years, I discover that Buddhism practice is the closest things to art practice, both through a gradual process of cultivate your self to push the thought and accomplishment from one level to another higher level, and keep transcending and overcoming the thinker-self. Towards the end, the oeuvres that reveal the artist’s physical line of thought is secondary compares to the artist himself has in fact upgraded his thought and layered his wisdom. Therefore, eventually, the artist is the work.



[1] Gormley, Antony. Antony Gormley: Blind Light (The Hayward exhibition booklet), 2007. Page 4.

[2] Ibid. Page 14.

[3] Ibid. Page 20.

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Gormley

[5] Gormley, Antony. Antony Gormley: Blind Light (The Hayward exhibition booklet), 2007. Page 5.

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Gormley

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Gormley

[8] www.groveart.com

[9] Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with the sculptor Anthony Gormley. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/johntusainterview/gormley_transcript.shtml

Welcome to the ground

Thank you for stopping over. The Ground We Share evolves from my research study where I make a comparative study between the concepts of the everyday in art practice and Zen.

My art practice may be seen as the result of my interest on the matters of the everyday and Eastern thoughts. Over the years, I have produced a body of cross-disciplinary work that explores the as-it-is-ness of things, and interconnectedness between objects and people. My own cultural background and life experience are often revisited, examined and evidenced in the work within this journey of exploration.

In Zen tradition, mindfulness to everyday trivial is important in their spiritual pratice, my research relates this notion of attentiveness from my work to this tradition. Historically, many important twentieth century artists and art groups who expanded Duchamp’s theory of the ready-made and the everyday were also influenced by Zen teaching from D.T. Suzuki and Shunryu Suzuki that can also be related to this research.

In contrast to the Western sociological perspective on the study of the everyday from important thinkers like Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau; I look at it from a different perspective - through the prism of a contemporary artist that comes from an Eastern background.

This blog provides a space to share my activities and information arising from my work and research. You are welcome to be part of this interconnection by posting your valuable experience, thoughts and comments.