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Feeling Material XVII

Feeling Material XVII
5 mm square section mild steel bar
84 5/8 x 76 ¾ x 74 ¾in. (215 x 195 x 190cm.)
Executed in 2005
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2006.
M. Mack (ed.), Antony Gormley, Göttingen 2007 (illustrated in colour, p. 531).
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

A dynamic rendering of the human form, formed of tightly coiled loops and spirals that expand into space, the present work stems from Antony Gormley’s celebrated series Feeling Material. Executed in 2005, and held in the same private collection since the following year, its continuous, seemingly endless steel wire conjures a force field or an unfurling spring, capturing a sense of the visceral energy that emanates from the body. For more than four decades, Gormley’s practice has sought to visualise the way in which we inhabit—and, by extension, activate—our surroundings. With Feeling Material, he explains, he wanted ‘to create a vortex that orbits the intimate zone of the body and then enters the space around it’ (A. Gormley, quoted in M. Mack (ed.), Antony Gormley, Göttingen 2007, p. 435). In the present work, the strands of wire encircle the figure like cosmic forces, recalling images of the Whirlpool Galaxy released from the Hubble Telescope that year. Fittingly, the artist donated a later work from the series to CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.

Created between 2003 and 2008, Feeling Material represents an important chapter in Gormley’s practice. In many of the series’ early works, the figural element was more abstract and loosely woven, anticipating his monumental Clearing installations that dispensed with the human body altogether. In both instances, Gormley conjured a sense of freehand drawing in space, calling to mind Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Deluge’ pictures as well as the raw automatism of Cy Twombly’s ‘Blackboards’. By the time of the present work, however, the figure had begun to re-emerge more strongly, with the looping strands of wire solidifying into a dark, central mass. ‘There is a concentration of energy similar to a black hole’, Gormley has explained, ‘where gravity and mass become very dense at the core of the sculpture. From a relatively chaotic energy field a condensed body mass emerges at the centre of the vortex’ (A. Gormley, Christie’s, January 2013). In this, the series’ name takes on a new relevance: the body seems to ‘feel’ its way into material existence, groping for tangible form amid an infinite, swirling mass. We, in turn, become newly aware of our own presence, and the forces that hold us in this world.

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