Review: Antony Gormley

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2014, 10:06am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2014, 10:06am

Antony Gormley
States and Conditions, Hong Kong
White CubeUntil May 3

Antony Gormley's debut exhibition in Hong Kong at White Cube was to complement a large outdoor display in 31 locations of human fibreglass figures on the ground and hovering atop Central Hong Kong office buildings. Known as "Event Horizon", and previously seen in London, São Paulo and New York, it would have perfectly fitted into Hong Kong's jigsaw landscape of blocks-as-buildings and tight skyward spaces.

However, Hong Kong's Event Horizon has been cancelled after a US investment bank asked its landlord, Hong Kong Land, the major sponsor of the display, to cancel its involvement after a member of the bank's staff recently jumped to his death from Chater House.

Event Horizon focuses on the "perceptual limit of our body" and significantly involves a street-level pedestrian audience whose own shifting viewpoints are integral to this public art project. It is an enormous missed opportunity not to have Gormley use Hong Kong's streets as an outdoor gallery. This cancellation should be reconsidered. It is not a sensitive decision, merely small-minded.

Of course, Gormley's work is not just the depiction of the human form, but as he says, uses "... the abstract measurable languages of construction and ordering, to initiate a conversation about things that are the complete opposite of such ordering." He deals with bigger philosophical questions than mere physicality - of a type that investment banks, post-2008, could also embrace.

Within the gallery, Gormley intentionally uses the empty spaces surrounding his sculpture as integral to his own physical interventions. Thus Form, the small, blocked sculpture of a bowed figure, occupies an entire large room. Whereas Murmur uses multiple layers of joined steel tubing and incorporates its own empty space in an extrapolated, exploded version of Form.

Gormley quotes German artist Joseph Beuys: "What is man? We don't know. We have to make him. What is art? We don't know. We have to make it." Accompanied by a fine catalogue, this is an excellent exhibition.

John Batten