Antony Gormley’s sculptures, installations and public artworks address the relationship of the human body and its spatial environment. Learning to See IV is one of seven sculptures in his series from the early 1990s that initiated a discussion about the human figure in art and sculpture in the UK and Europe. Gormley’s idea of the body as a place of memory and transformation was tangential to issues of gender and identity politics in art at the time. The series uses the artist’s own body as subject, tool and material.
Fiberglass casts of his body were overlaid with an exterior skin of sheet lead to give them a unitary, almost mechanical appearance. The soldered lead seals of these caskets draw attention to their inner space, to what they conceal. The body that gave each sculpture its form is absent and in its place is a volume of air. The life-size sculpture is transformed into a memory container, an instrument that allows one to grasp what one cannot see. It’s about learning to see humankind’s spiritual inside. The idea came to Gormley during the casting process. While wrapped in plastered scrim, waiting for the plaster to set, he would meditate about his own body. The quiet, free-standing pose of Learning to See IV, with hands resting to side, embodies the idea of meditation. The viewer who stands and looks at it also meditates. The sculpture, viewer and absent artist share the same space and idea.
Text: Gavin Jantjes
From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0