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Gormley’s cubes at White Cube

June 14, 2010

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Ever since I first saw Antony Gormley’s imposing Angel of the North sculpture after it was unveiled in Gateshead (to the dismay of the local papers who banged on for months about the money wasted which could have gone to hospitals), I’ve been a loyal fan.

I’d always feel a sense of delight at spotting the Gateshead Angel from the train window as I headed back up to Newcastle when I lived there. It meant I wasn’t far from home.

Gormley is an accessible, never-stuffy, inclusive artist who always seeks to involve people in his work (his fourth plinth project One and Other in Trafalgar Square last summer where members of the public did whatever they liked over 100 days epitomized this idea).

While Blind Light at the Hayward a couple of years before had people, me included, screaming in fright as we bumbled round a mist-filled glass box as Gormley explored our relationship with space, light and perspective. I never knew a smoke-filled room could be so much fun.

Of course Gormley is renowned for his human forms and there is a roomful of such oxidised people (this time created in a rather cubist brick style) in Test Sites currently showing at White Cube in St. James’s. But it is the installation downstairs that will most surprise you.

Breathing Room III is a series of bright blue, interconnecting glow-in-the-dark squares (“photo luminescent space frames” according to White Cube) made of aluminium which take up most of the dark room. You can walk round and in-between the squares and when you do it’s like being in a computer game. Or an architect’s 3D mock-up of a building. Very surreal.

Once your eyes have adjusted to the darkness and the calming blue glow from the squares, Gormley surprises by switching the lights on full beam which is both painful and disorientating.

“Downstairs, it’s kind of a meditative space cut through by this white light that in some way takes you out of the dreamy, touchy-feely environment,” Gormley tells Dazed Digital in a thought-provoking interview. “It also illuminates everybody else that is locked in that matrix with you, and together you are all interrogated. For me, it’s about the dialectic between interrogation and meditation.”

Another Gormley classic.

Test Sites runs Tuesday-Saturday at White Cube, Mason’s Yard in St. James’s, free of charge until Saturday 10 July.

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