A fourteen-year-old is a tough one to please when choosing an exhibition to visit! Especially one who has a natural tendency to touch everything in reach and make sudden unexpected movements accompanied by loud noises. On the train, my six-foot toddler complained ‘I hope we aren’t going to look round a gallery with old brown paintings…?‘
I had heard a whisper it was an impressive exhibition and so refrained from explaining much about it, for fear of spoiling any of the potential wow effects. I had chosen the (‘brown’) Antony Gormley exhibition at the Royal Academy and so off we went…
The giant toddler couldn’t have been more engaged in this exhibition than if we had just arrived at a hardcore rap gig. Each new room totally wowed us both. So much so, that he led me back around two of the rooms again for a second ‘Go’. I say ‘go’ as brilliantly this exhibition is interactive. ‘Clearing VII’ comprises of approximately 8 km of 12.7 mm square section aluminum tubing coiled around itself over and over into a tangle through the height and breadth of the space. We were encouraged to view the piece by climbing through it. The piece shakes and undulates, making a satisfying clattering noise.
The Piece entitled ‘Cave’ is a giant walk-through sculpture made from 27 tonnes of weathering steel. Finding one’s way in a crouched position in the darkness into the interior of the piece was the 14-year-olds idea of heaven. The light and detail from the ceiling of the RA peering down from a space through the top of the piece, inspired a series of photos by the teen.
The professional ADHD’er said his favourite work was the steel wire held at huge tension from the walls just above head hight through two of the main galleries. His desire to jump up and hang his body weight swinging from the wire was palpable by everyone in the gallery. It took some ‘coaxing’ to convince him that it was not an interactive artwork! Some of that trusty old under the breath silent shouting accompanied by the angriest face I could muster did the trick!
Even the smaller pieces like the tiny concentric bowls named ‘FULL BOWL’ served to draw our attention down into the texture and details. The many sketchbook pages, prints, and paintings give a detailed sence of the workings of Gormleys brain.
Thankfully the final piece of the exhibition was a more meditative piece called ‘Host’ which is a whole gallery filled with Buckinghamshire clay and more than 5000ltrs of Atlantic seawater. This piece created a strange cold draft of air and the faint smell of seawater.
The dramatically varying scales of the works served to take us on a kind of roller coaster in from one piece to another focusing our eyes and mind into the detail and texture back up to the rafters. The works created clear sense of one’s own scale within the pieces. Even my toddler made comment on this aspect. I would like to have had space in my brain to have absorbed fully Gormley’s conceptual side to the exhibition but I’m sure someone fancy like the Guardian will impart that for us.
My teen was very pleased to know that even ‘Toast‘ can be considered a suitable medium to use in Art! So thank you, Gormley, for assisting me in showing him that anything is possible.
This colossal exhibition of sculptures that took an army of structural engineers to install is only open until 3rd of December and is not to be missed!