White Cube Bermondsey hosts “Fit”, a major new exhibition by Antony Gormley. The sequel to his exhibition Model held here in 2012, Fit considers the degree to which we are measured by and measure ourselves against the scale and density of our built environment. Gormley has configured the gallery space into 15 discrete chambers to create a series of dramatic physiological encounters in the form of a labyrinth. Visitors will face a choice of passages through differently sized, uniquely lit spaces where each room challenges or qualifies the experience of the last.
The artist’s concerns with urban, corporate expansion are most clearly articulated in the expansive installation Sleeping Field (2015–16). Composed of nearly 600 small iron sculptures, at first glance the work looks like a carpet of charcoal grey blocks or a condensed landscape of high and low-rise buildings. Up close, the forms resolve into hundreds of individual bodies at rest. The title of this sculpture touches upon Gormley’s belief that we have become sleeping servants of a system that denies collective imagination.
The notion of scale, in particular the scale of a human body in relation to architectural space, is explored in works like Run (2016), a singular, continuous cast iron line which indicates the space of one room in snaking, 90-degree turns. In describing this work, Gormley states, ‘it is both object and space, inviting one to look at it as a thing but to experience it as a place’.
In contrast to the dispersed mass of Sleeping Field, the work Block (2016), an immense 13-tonne concrete block-work sculpture describes an abstract, contemplative body in an attitude of withdrawal and reflection. Two other sculptures, formed from industrially-cut steel plate slabs, playfully represent the form of the classical nude and the tottering stacks of blocks a child might make. In Passage (2016), Gormley creates a 12 metre-long tunnel, whose shape is modelled on a standing human form, suggesting a correlative for the interior of the body and offering a journey into darkness and the unknown.
Gormley’s approach to exhibition-making is as a test ground for perception, focusing on the mapping of our subjective experience and the potential of the viewers’ projected empathy. Fit aims to ‘make a show that allows forms and materials to work on us, releasing us from any expectations of what sculpture is and how it might act on us’.