Antony Gormley (B. 1950)
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Antony Gormley (B. 1950)


Antony Gormley (B. 1950)
lead, fibreglass, plaster and air
83 ½ x 22 7/8 x 31 ½in. (212 x 58 x 80cm.)
Executed in 1987
White Cube.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010.
Making Space, exh. cat., Gateshead, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, 2004 (illustrated in colour, p. 62).
Kassel, Documenta 8, 1987, p. 84, no. 2 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 85).
Cambridge, Cambridge University, 800th Anniversary Exhibition, 2011.

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Exhibited at Documenta 8, Kassel, in the year of its creation, Growth is an important early work by Antony Gormley. A life-size vision of two conjoined bodies made in 1987, it stems from the series of ‘Double Bodycase Works’ (1987–1989) – some of his most ambitious early sculptures. It was during the first part of the decade that Gormley began to use his own body as a template for hollow lead sculptures that examined the human body as a place. Using sheets of beaten lead soldered together around plaster moulds, these extraordinary bodycases were not intended as self-portraits, but rather as vehicles for understanding the relationship between body and space.

The three works that comprised Gormley’s contribution to Documenta 8 examined three differing aspects of the human condition. Free Object, now held in the collection of the Neue Galerie, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, explores individuation and the uniqueness of the human self. Growth plays with the Lacanian notion of the mirror stage; the self may have biological origins but is completed only when the individual recognises an identity beyond its own physical needs. Growth identifies this moment of self-realisation in contrast to its companion work, To the Ends of the Earth, that in its form of two bodycases conjoined back to back suggests another doubling, the exchange with the wider world by which we become ‘other’ to ourselves.

In the ‘Double Bodycase Works’, Gormley extended his investigations to encompass two bodies seamlessly fused together. ‘Within the body there is a doubling of many of the organs: two sides of the brain, two eyeballs, two ears, two lungs, two testicles, two kidneys, two hands, two legs’, he has explained. ‘I wanted to make single sculptures that extend this mirroring to two complete bodies conjoined’ (A. Gormley, quoted at [accessed 19 August 2019]).

In a text published for Antony Gormley’s solo exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London, in 1987, the artist explained that ‘the job is to transform what exists in the outer world by uniting it with the world of sensation, imagination and faith. Action can be confused with life. Much of human life is hidden. Sculpture, in stillness, can transmit what may not be seen. My work is to make bodies into vessels that both contain and occupy space’ (A. Gormley, October 1985, printed in Antony Gormley: Five Works, exh. cat., Serpentine Gallery, London, 1987). Coming to prominence in the wake of Minimalist and Conceptualist practices during the late 1970s, Gormley sought to recast figurative sculpture as a contemplative – rather than a dynamic – art form. His bodies were not frozen in the midst of action; nor were they celebrations of mankind’s physical potential. Instead, they were simply expressions of being: of existing in the world. In lead, Gormley found a medium perfectly suited to capturing this ‘stillness’, relishing the heavy, ‘encased’ quality it bestowed upon the human body. ‘Space exists outside the door and inside the head’, he continued. ‘My work is to make a human space in space. Each work is a place between form and formlessness, a time between origin and becoming’ (A. Gormley, ibid.). His ‘bodycase’ works would reach their apotheosis in the series of three sculptures entitled A Case for an Angel (1989–1990), which – as precursors to the iconic Angel of the North (1998) – endowed the human form with monumental leaden wings. The present work, with its metamorphic properties, might be seen to anticipate this climax.

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