Friday, June 25, 2010

An Evening With Antony Gormley

Last night I had the wonderful pleasure of attending an evening with Antony Gormley at the Museum of London.

It is quite impossible to be aware of the art world and not have at least heard his name on the periphery. He is one of the world's most prolific sculptors. Works like Event Horizon, originally presented in London and now on display in New York, are difficult to miss. In the interview last night the fact that his work has been called 'viral' was brought up for discussion.

He certainly has managed to place his work in all manner of spaces and places, from mountains and deserts to cities and even the ocean. I can't say I looked at any of his art with a strong understanding. I could see it was a challenge for where art may be viewed and how it relates to the landscapes around us, but last night I learned a new depth to the brilliant human being behind these pieces.

Antony Gormley wore a white shirt, white trousers and brown hiking boots. I noticed the stripey socks poking out from under the cuff of his pant leg. He spoke with a gentle voice, reflecting on how he creates and his achievements thus far. It was when he described the making of Field that I found myself drawn in closer to his methodical and warm tones. As he described the way in which he brought other people in to work on something, the way in which he employed them to create a piece in a mindful way, I found myself filling up with this sense of absolute joy. He told us about the process and the 'rules' he placed, of which there were very few: take a handful of clay, shape it, give it eyes, don't think about it, just feel it.

Just feel it. Just create something based on a feeling, without applying detail and thought. It was beautiful and it was then I realised something I hadn't known about Antony Gormley. He too is a Buddhist.

He didn't really speak the words as such throughout the interview, but he did begin using more Buddhist terminology and he shared his experience of being a young man and facing the choice to become a monk or to become a sculptor. His words were so captivating. As I sat there I found myself smiling wider and wider. All these ideas about giving art to people. About providing an environment in which anyone could see that we are all artists and we are all connected. We are limitless energy and ideas. We are pure potential personified and the only restrictions are the ones we choose to create and confine ourselves to. If we stand on top of a building, high above the caverns we've created below, we can see the horizon. If we take a moment to stand on a plinth, to present our bodies as art, as impermanent, moldable things, we can see our potential. We can "be the subject of the field" and we can each make our worlds bigger by sharing our experience, our observations, our discoveries.

Perhaps a cold metal statue in a barren tundra is not representative of man vs. nature, but how man is nature. We are each of us connected entirely through our human experience and our shared planet. I am as much a part of the vast landscapes of countries I've not yet been to as they are a part of me.

I sat in that uncomfortable plastic chair and looked in awe at someone so humble about what he was doing because he knew he was merely a vessel for the creativity that was already there. He is a Bodhisattva warrior, using artwork to challenge us to question who we are, how we fit, where we belong and how we choose to define ourselves based on the space in which we exist. I think the description of materials used for Vehicle says it all: lead, fibreglass, wood, steel, air.

Air is as much a part of what we create, what we experience and who we are as anything else. It is just as tangible. It is also impermanent and changeable, like all else.

When the last questions was asked and answered I felt this sense of great connectivity with everyone in that room. I would have happily sat for hours if I'd been able to ask more, to crate dialogue, to converse easily and dive even more into the world he shared. He really did make my world bigger last night.

For that I am ever grateful.

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