I wanted to escape from the boundary of the skin and to acknowledge the body as a place of transformation.
The Domains really got going when I realised I could describe the space of the body as a matrix formed from 8 lengths of stainless steel and with a loose set of rules: one end of each T connection should always be on the skin surface, and the rods should be as orthogonal to the original skin surface as possible.
As the work progressed it achieved tension, and a minimum member rule arose which involved using the least amount of material necessary to convey the attitude of the body, while still allowing it to stand.
Each Domain is an attempt to separate the subtle body from the material body; to abstract an attitude and expose it to light and space. It is a diagnostic instrument; both a receiver and a transmitter.
- "ANTONY GORMLEY"
“The Domain sculptures privilege a set of points of convergence over the traditional enclosing, bounding surface, and hence may be compared, as Gormley says, ‘to a kind of acupuncture’. The skin has become ‘a constellation’ rather than a continuous, unbroken surface” (D. Leader, “Drawing in Space,” Making Space, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 2004).
In keeping with the best of Antony Gormley’s celebrated oeuvre, Domain XXXIX delves into the human form to grapple with the metaphysical questions at the heart of consciousness. The sculpture’s thickets of punctuated steel bars jut, intersect, and disperse to suggest a dematerialized figure. This open hominid network calls to mind painter Paul Gauguin’s oft-cited line of existential questioning: “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” An exemplar of the Turner Prize-winning sculptor’s 1999-2009 Domain series, the present lot probes what it means to exist in space as and in a body, bringing the embodied sensation beautifully explored in work by Modernist sculptor Auguste Rodin to its natural conclusion. In contrast to the weight, mass, and contours that characterize classical sculpture, Domain XXXIX is a weightless amalgamation of suspended spatial coordinates—a “drawing in space”— that captures the diffuse experience of being a contemporary subject in a world of networks. While engaging with the existential questions that have fueled centuries of art-making, Domain is also profoundly contemporary, its use of industrial materials and emphasis on process calling to mind work by fellow modern sculptors Donald Judd and Richard Serra. Painstakingly marrying contemporary methods with timeless concerns, Domain poignantly transforms “physical space…into existential space” (E. Schneider, “In and Out,” Antony Gormley, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, 2009).
Gormley has emphasized that in the Domain series, process carries equal weight to final product. While the artist used his own naked form as the basis for this work and lead and iron casts in the 1980s, over time his work has become increasingly involved with the collective public body. In Domain, locals of Gateshead, England—many of whom were inspired by Gormley’s 1996 public sculpture Angel of the North—volunteered to be cast in wet plaster, a gruelling process involving clingfilm and hessian scrim. Once the casts had hardened, they were opened, and steel bars were laboriously welded and wedged into the space where the body had been previously. Aerial linear networks of steel bars and empty space resulted, each perfectly distinct in accordance with each model’s unique form. Domain XXXIX did not simply emerge; it was painstakingly constructed, with all of the postmodern implications of the term, through an experience at once collective (as volunteers were cast in the company of other volunteers) and profoundly solitary (as volunteers were confined to a single, silent plaster cast). Domain’s participants noted that the process of waiting for the cast to harden was not unlike the process of viewing the final sculpture in all of its ethereal beauty; one is invited to cultivate familiarity with one’s own body, and to engage with what Gormley has referred to as the “collective experience of the inner space of the body” (A. Gormley in conversation with D. Peat, Interview with David Peat, 1996, www.antonygormley.com). In Domain, heightened consciousness is reached through the body, echoing Gormley’s interest in mindfulness and meditation in the Theravada Buddhist tradition.
A body without bounds, Domain XXXIX exists in the space of the viewer. It is at once two-dimensional—linear and light, seemingly impervious to gravity—and three-dimensional, flouting the supposed divisions between drawing and sculpture as an heir to Pablo Picasso’s notion of “drawing in space.” Of a Modernist sculptural lineage, Domain XXXIX abandons the classical sculptural ideal of a neatly enclosed form in the round. Instead, like Auguste Rodin or Alberto Giacometti, Gormley strives for a sculptural body that is fragmented and fractured, more expressive of an inner experience than an allegorical one. Indeed, Gormley drew inspiration from both Rodin and Giacometti; in Rodin’s The Age of Bronze, Gormley perceived the externalization of the feeling of embodiment, while in Giacometti’s City Square – La Place, he saw a prescient engagement with relational aesthetics, or with the use of space and time as subjects. In Domain, Gormley developed the concepts touched upon by these Modernist greats, and plunged into the space of the contemporary as he explored the dispersed or expansive subject, which exists both within a physical body and within “networks of virtual space and computerization” (D. Leader, Drawing in Space, Making Space, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 2004).
Born in London in 1950, acclaimed sculptor Antony Gormley has honed his explorations of the relation of bodies to space and the cosmos over decades of focused artistic practice. Passionate about both Eastern and Western branches of knowledge, Gormley studied archaeology, anthropology, and art history at Cambridge and spent two years studying Buddhist meditation in India and Sri Lanka. In 1994, Gormley won the prestigious Turner Prize for his work Field for the British Isles, an installation of thousands of small clay figures that were made in bodily collaboration with select participants, not unlike Domain. A bevy of additional public honors followed; the sculptor went on to win the South Bank Prize for Visual Art, the Bernhard Heiliger Award for Sculpture, the Obayashi Prize, and the Praemium Imperiale, and in 2014 his prodigious contributions to England’s cultural landscape were recognized and honored when he was made a knight.