Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Antony Gormley on drawing - at the Jerwood

Last night, Tina Mammoser and I were treated to a unique event - Antony Gormley RA speaking in public for the very first time ever about his drawings at a Gallery Talk to a small audience at the Jerwood Space.

The talk was associated with an exhibition, Space to Draw, which opened on 17th January and runs until 10th February and includes both sculpture and drawings by Antony Gormley and six other artists who've all had previous associations with the Jerwood.

'Drawing what you can't see'
pen and ink in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The exhibition considers the relationship between sculpture and drawing. Three artists, for whom drawing is a major part of their professional practice have been invited to give Gallery talks during the course of the exhibition and Antony Gormley gave the first of these last night - "Drawing From & Drawing Out".

It was a real privilege to hear him speak about his approach to drawing as well as to see his slide show of drawings done in various media and the drawings in the exhibition. Some of the drawings have previously been seen in exhibitions. You can see more of his more recent drawings here and here and the projects that they related to on his website - such as the Feeling Materials project - including Feeling Material V (in the Jerwood exhibition)

He talked about:
  • producing two sort of drawings - workbook drawings and drawings which investigate space and time, which have informed his sculpture.
  • how his drawings are exploring insides and outsides, the tensions inbetween and how a body might articulate space. He showed a drawing a silhouette of a body against the sky and how it inverted to become a void rather than a solid - which posed the question of whether the drawing is of a thing, a place or a void.
  • he's interested in how inscribing space can activate it - how a line on a flat piece of paper can become liberated from perspective
  • the nature of the materials he uses to draw - in the main natural substances - and how it's important to be sensitive to the nature of the medium used for drawing. He uses very little colour other than purely natural earth like colours.
  • how he is now drawing spaces - with no bodies - made up on trajectory lines made with an etching burr, registering a bodily movement
  • how a line can trace and register time
  • how for a long time he thought drawings had to be of something before he realised that drawing could become something more than recognition or communication, a drawing could become participative.
What follows are some soundbites from last night.
"Drawing is like thinking out loud"

"Drawing is a form of explanation. It's a notation of a journey"

"I try to draw every day"

"There's nowhere to hide in drawing"

"It's important that the substances which I draw with are not taken for granted...they are not innocent parties"

"You have to give up all ideas of what a thing looks like"

"Everybody draws differently and that's what makes it valuable"

"The immediacy of what's happening is more important than the accuracy. You're trying to make a notation of something you're not sure about and that's what makes it of value."

Antony Gormley 21 January 2007
His drawings are often made at night. He works on a traditional Somerset paper 300g/m² which is made for etching.

Antony Gormley has a solo show at the White Cube in March. His proposal for the use of the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square (which even has its own website now!) is currently being considered. You can read his proposal here - it's certainly different and I suspect is in with a better than even chance of success!

For the record, I didn't have a very good view of Antony Gormley and my own drawings were captured as he moved around during the talk. Drawing - inbetween note-taking - progressed from the top of the page in my sketchbook in an anti-clockwise direction!

You can see a biography of Antony Gormley on his website. Antony Gormley is a sculptor who has explored the human image using his own body as a subject, tool and material over the course of the last 25 years. His work has been exhibited extensively both in the UK (such as the Whitechapel, Tate Modern, Hayward Galleries, British Museum and White Cube) and internationally. He has participated in major group shows such as the Venice Biennale. His most celebrated work is probably his 20m high figure 'Angel of the North' (1997). Another important installation is 'Another Place' (1998) which now has a permanent home on Crosby Beach in Merseyside.

Antony Gormley was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994 for his Field for the British Isles, a roomful of some 40,000 terracotta figures, handmade by a local community in St Helen's on Merseyside, shown at Tate Liverpool in 1994, and (until January 2003) on show at the British Museum.
He also won the South Bank Prize for Visual Art in 1999 and was made an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1997. In 2007 he was awarded the Bernhard Heiliger Award for Sculpture. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Trinity College, Cambridge and Jesus College, Cambridge, and has been a Royal Academician since 2003.



  1. Thanks for bringing Gormley to us, Katherine. Reminds me of
    , who does glass but displays his conceptual drawings also.

    Looks like the first "here" link is broken.

  2. Thanks casey - link is now fixed.

  3. I so envy your access to fabulous art resources and events, but, then, you DO live in London! Thanks for sharing your experience, links, and information, as always.

  4. I lived in London for a long time without tking advantage oif what it has to offer.

    I have to confess with this one, it was the result of being on the mailing list/opening the e-mail and being on the phone to book within about 10 seconds of it arriving!!! ;)

  5. Wonderful post. Thanks for introducing me to a wonderful artist. I'm also really enjoying your posts about composition.

  6. Very interesting post - thanks for being such a great resource!

  7. That sounds like a great event to be able to take in Katherine. I too envy you your access to resources in a large city. But I make up for lost time whenever I travel!

  8. Another big thank you from Germany... great observations and notes on drawing..

  9. Thanks for this Katherine - Gormley is an artist I really rate, after having seen "The Field". I would not have believed that some stupid looking clay figures could have moved me so much. That's the point I guess - they look stupid - but they LOOK!

  10. I think that's the test of whether or not somebody is a great artist. The ones that are enable you to see in new ways - and not just once, they do it over and over again.

    I didn't like Picasso until I visited the Musee Picasso in Paris and came out a total convert.

    What I especially like with artists who work in series is to look through the series starting at the beginning. You can trace the progression of a thought and the tangents that arise as it develops.


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