Made in 2015, Vise is part of Antony Gormley’s celebrated ‘Cast Blockworks’ series. Based on 3D scans of his own body, Gormley’s sculptures apply the rules of architecture and geometry to the human form, seeking to interrogate the relationship between the body and the space in which it exists. As the artist explains, ‘The “Cast Blockworks” re-describe body volume in Euclidean terms, replacing the discrete function-based structures of anatomy with architectonic volumes that use the dynamics of stacking, cantilever and balance to achieve a stable structure that is still dynamic. Increasingly, the blocks have become more robust, often extending beyond the skin in an attempt to evoke particular feelings and tensions. The challenge is to find a way to employ this architectonic language to provoke empathetic feeling in the urban-bound viewer’ (A. Gormley, 2011). Gormley’s recent installation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, ‘Stand’, shone new light on this idea: ten 1.5 times life-size ‘Cast Blockworks’ were positioned outside at the top of the museum steps, assuming a human presence in contrast with the surrounding cityscape. This September, a major retrospective of his work will open at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.
Begun in 2005, Gormley’s ‘Cast Blockworks’ evolved from the original series of ‘Blockworks’ that he had initiated two years previously. His early works used small blocks in tight configurations: ‘the materialized pixel was very much in my mind at the beginning of the Blockwork series’, he explains (A. Gormley, quoted in M. Iversen, ‘Still Standing’ in Antony Gormley: Still Standing, exh. cat., The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, 2011, p. 50). As his investigations progressed, however, the artist began using increasingly larger units, distilling the human body to a series of progressively abstract geometries. Despite using his own body as the basis for his work, Gormley maintains that his sculptures are not intended as portraits; rather, they seek to capture the human condition in universal terms. Life-size in scale, Vise induces a startling sense of self-awareness in the onlooker, prompting the viewer to reassess their own physicality. ‘You could say that each of them displaces a space where someone could really stand’, Gormley claims. ‘This acknowledgement of the absent is very important and is what needs to be filled by the subjectivity of the viewer. So, I would say that the subject of my work does not arrive until the viewer is looking at it’ (A. Gormley, interview with D. Ozerkov in Antony Gormley: Still Standing, ibid., p. 59).