27 November 2019. A true original, a master of minimalism, a visionary. Art does not exist without vision, art does not exist without visibility, art does not exist without meaning. Art does not belong in a museum, definitely it does not belong in an overcrowded museum where most of the visitors are more interested in their own selfies with the artwork than the artwork itself. The plasticity of Gormley’s sculptural work lends itself to exactly that, the perfect background to a selfie, and Gormley’s exhibition at the Royal Academy was full of Asian young adults elegantly dressed and posing for the camera. Strike a pose. Art is not an excuse for a model’s portfolio. Though it was fun seeing so many people playfully interacting with the artwork, I left the exhibition feeling that Gormley’s sculptures do not belong into a static museum. His democratic vision belongs to nature, his statues belong to the earth and to the sky. Take the Angel of the North for example, this is a sculpture that is truly humbling in its simplicity and scale, an angel born out of the industrial age and looking into the future, dwarfing eager visitors, the contrast between people and angel simply underlining our insignificance. Though it was fun to see his bronze statue repeating himself ad infinitum hanging from the ceiling of the RA bat-like, or sideways or popping up as a silent companion on the floor of the gallery, its multiple presence is infinitely more significant and poignant staring out into the see at Crosby beach, Merseyside or popping out of the River Thames, visible from outside the Grapes pub in Narrow Street. “Another Time” felt like the dead rising from the bottom of the mighty river. Going back to the exhibition at the Royal Academy in London, it would have made more sense having the statues scattered all around the gallery from the entrance courtyard to the steps leading to the gallery and into the various room of the exhibition, linking his work and our journey through the exhibition like the metallic cable stretching from room to room slightly above our heads. It would have made Gormley’s presence tangible, real. I fell in love with all his minimalist sketchbooks, images hardly impressed on paper with crude oil, as if the trace of a fleeting human presence has been impressed on them by the light, as if the presence of a ghost has been captured at lightning speed, leaving the aura and the impression on our retinas, like the sacred shroud bearing the impression of the Christ.
Gormley’s crouching cubic human figures that welcome visitors when entering the exhibition, were also beautiful in a distressing way. After leaving the exhibition walking through Trafalgar Square, brought memories of One and Other, Gormley’s human sculptures dating back to 2009 and I just longed for a higher standard for the fourth plinth commissions, consistently disappointing for far too long.