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  • Provenance

    Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Breathing Room, 30 March - 29 April 2006

  • Literature

    exh. cat., Paris, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Antony Gormley: Breathing Room, 2006, pp. 2, 4 (illustrated)
    Michael Mack, ed., Göttingen/London, Antony Gormley, 2007, pp. 450, 530 (illustrated)
    Fernando Huici March, Rod Mengham, Antony Gormley, Pierre Tillet, Rotterdam, Antony Gormley: Between you and me, 2008, p.74, illustrated

  • Catalogue Essay


    ‘As far as I’m concerned, art is useless unless it helps us deal with survival, psychologically and physically. It’s useless unless it helps us investigate our predicament.’

    - ANTONY GORMLEY, 2008

    Antony Gormley’s ‘Blockworks’ form a crucial part of his monumental, meditative investigations into the body and space. Based on a form cast directly from the artist’s own body, they constitute what he calls ‘a kind of weaving mass with void; a push and pull between blocks that are present and blocks that are absent.’ (Antony Gormley in exh. cat. Still Standing, White Cube, 2012). They are delicate yet robust, stable yet dynamic, employing careful cantilever and poise to create an ‘architectonic language’ that explores the internal and external human condition.

    Settlement is concerned with a particular collective experience. The ‘urban condition of humanity’ (Antony Gormley in conversation with Pierre Tillet, exh. cat. Antony Gormley: Between You and Me, Kunsthal Rotterdam, 2008) is expressed in the pixel-like blocks of steel: the body forms a microcosm for personal identity in an anonymous, shared environment. The work’s title captures this duality, Settlement recalling a collection of dwellings as much as the settled repose of the figure. Its face-down form appears to have been deposited, crystallised from an informational flux. As Gormley says of his ‘Cast Blockworks,’ there is a ‘contradiction’ in this prone chassis as the hard shapes of ‘the formalism of modernity’ extend beyond the skin of the body, straining our empathetic response. (Antony Gormley in exh. cat. Still Standing, White Cube, 2012). An acute balance must be struck in this fragile yet solid configuration, and the resulting play of positive and negative spaces addresses the effort of simply existing.

    Gormley states that ‘it is impossible to make art than can truly be shared without acknowledging the body as a starting point of common experience. So I have to acknowledge the body and at the same time try to find a way of not representing it, or presenting it simply as an object.’ (Antony Gormley in conversation with Pierre Tillet, exh. cat. Antony Gormley: Between You and Me, Kunsthal Rotterdam, 2008). This is precisely what he achieves in the architectural/physiological dialogue of the present lot: the pull of the bodily outline is inescapable, but its stark metal matrices carry the physical and psychological tensions of communal city existence. The blocks both define the body’s structure and verge on swallowing it completely. Here, the orange-rusted iron that Gormley uses in his cast pieces is eschewed in favour of bright mild steel, painstakingly bolted together. As Gormley explains, the steel’s gleaming surface – only maintained by polishing – hints at both toughness and vulnerability. But there is also an optimism in the work; Settlement displays a constellatory impulse that is diagrammatic of the strength found in shared experience, forming a monument to the human spirit and body even as it acknowledges its own eventual disintegration.

    Steel, ‘Settlement’, why I made it and why I use it.

    Steel is the cousin of iron, a concentrated earth mineral, but it is more industrial and comes in six metre lengths at defined widths: 12, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60 and 80mm square section. I use it because it's hard, easy to work and lasts a long time. It is dense and holds its shape while also being vulnerable to atmosphere and oxidisation so it is tough but vulnerable at the same time; it can be polished to shine but will return to earth if left. The whole sculpture plays with together and apart, the part and the whole, the acceptance of entropy and the discipline necessary to withstand it. Works like ‘Settlement’ attempt to remake the body in terms of a village, pueblo or city, celebrating the body itself as a place of indwelling but vulnerable existence. Steel suits our industrial age more than bronze. I like its colour. I like the fact that the drawn sides are very different in texture to the cut ends. We bolt all the pieces together. I like the chess-like challenge of not bolting yourself out: there always has to be space to turn your block so putting the pieces together tightly so that the whole piece stays together is hard but when it is together it is very rewarding. The body is an aggregate of cells and the sculpture an aggregate of blocks, an echo of the place I found myself and made again to see.

    Antony Gormley
    8th January 2015

20

Settlement

2005
variable mild steel blocks
23.5 x 208 x 60.5 cm (9 1/4 x 81 7/8 x 23 7/8 in.)

Estimate
£250,000 - 350,000 ‡ ♠

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 12 February 2015 7pm