Antony Gormley: Still standing
The Curator's Commentary on Antony Gormley's exhibit, Still Standing
Lyudmila Ivanovna Davydova, curator for Roman sculpture of the Antiquities Department
A summary of Gormley's creative programme (from statements by the
Thus; what stands before us is an exhibition project, which might be provisionally called The Body in Space, and 17 sculptures by A. Gormley, his pixalized alter ego, and 9 classical sculptures, selected and arranged by the sculptor are participating in it.
This is how the sculptor explains the concept of this exhibit:
And so, in the first hall we see Bodies, representing the Life of the 21st century.
Gormley thinks everything through. Continues building until his vision has been realized. A body that is "invisible", or constantly dissolving in the air - that is an impression of the Times we live in.
And the viewer, gladly or with reservations, participates in this process.
Not the Master, but the Viewer turns out to be the Demiurge.
And in the classical sculptures, Time is incarnated in the solidity of a beautiful body, realized to the very clot.
The role of the view is to see, feel, find something in that solidity, in that clot of Vanished or Lost Time.
Having used the idea of the materialization or artistic embodiment of the continuity of Europe in space and time as a foundation, Gormley used the language of sculpture, which is universal for all peoples and all times, where the main material, the main instrument, is the human body.
To do this, he had to counterpoise Bodies created in different epochs. And so the antiques are taken down from their Pedestal, the beautifully decorated Halls of the Hermitage, one of the best traditional museums, are chosen, and an exhibit is created that is based on counterpoint, that is, on a harmony of the independent voices of the Past and the Present, which we hear simultaneously.
The sculptor has demonstrated an unbelievable instinct by creating a series of works for this exhibit that differ only in their internal content (not their material, size, or colour), and that unifies the entire project.
Having removed the Classical sculptures from their pedestals, so that they will not be the symbols that the viewer has become accustomed to (of power, strength, war, love, merriment, etc,) Gormley forces us to see in them, in these Bodies, sculpture, born of the demands of its time, expressing an idea of the life-like in art. A striking example of this is the history of the creation of the statue of Aphrodite of Cnidus, of which the Venus Tauride may be considered a variant.
Thus, in Gormley's exhibit, classical Sculpture is, first of all, Bodies, which once filled the space of ancient cities and temples. They were created in accordance with certain canons, in compliance with functional specifications, and were not defined as objects of aesthetic enjoyment.
However, in reality, the majority of classical sculptures that have remained to us, were copies made by Romans, precisely in order to bring the viewer aesthetic pleasure. This radical metamorphosis casts a shadow on the correct interpretation of classical sculpture by the contemporary viewer, which is actually a product of later Roman culture. And indeed, upon examination of each particular statue, we see that it is also a product of the work of the Italian restorers of the 18th century.
As such, this exhibit makes it possible for viewers - and this is the key - to make contact with - or immerse themselves deeper in - the problems of the creative language of figurative art, and of sculpture in particular. It forces us to look at the Past from the point of view of the Here and Now, how that Past corresponds with the art of Today; not higher or lower, but rather in what way they complement and accentuate one another. In this way, the main instrument of sculpture, the human body, is capable of carrying information about Time, about the spiritual quests of the 21st century and of our common, distant ancestors as well.
Another important aspect of this project for the viewer is the fact that he received a unique opportunity to view classical sculpture from very close by and get a sense of the scale of "classical" sculptures, that particular quality of theirs which is, intrinsically, the very essence of the classical worldview; anthropocentrism, or simple Proportionality to man, that is, his universal "scale" and position within the space of classical civilization.