Tarquin Sinan: ‘Holes and Orifices: Understanding the communicative dimension of Antony Gormley’s sculpted bodies’

Abstract: The aim of this presentation is to highlight the key role holes and orifices play in the evolution of the British sculptor Antony Gormley’s conception and representation of the body. When Gormley chose to adopt the human figure as his subject in 1981, this aesthetic decision was mainly motivated by a communicative ambition. Gormley sought to encapsulate a feeling in an anthropomorphic vessel in order to share it with beholders susceptible to appropriating said experience, thus universalising it. The skin acts as the border between the inner space of experience and the outer space of public reception. The holes and orifices are therefore the guarantors of the interaction and communication between these two spaces, making them a crucial element of the sculptor’s project. This presentation will explore and illustrate (with personal photos) the progressive and evolving use of the hole as a spatial communicative tool.

Since Three Ways: Mould, Hole and the Passage (1981), the orifice has been integral to Gormley’s bodies. Becoming perceptive openings in Land Sea Air II (1982), holes signify anthropomorphism in the abstract pieces of the 1990s (Press (1993)), before evolving into a metaphysical journey where the skin is entirely pierced and the hole allows physical entry into the formerly represented physical experience (Quantum Cloud (1999-2009) or Aperture (2009-2012) series). Ultimately, the hole turns the body into an inhabitable site. For over three decades, the hole and its use have provided major insight to understanding Gormley’s conception of the body, the communicative frustrations it has engendered and the experimentations that have allowed him to overcome perceptive limitations.

This overview of Gormley’s corpus draws a parallel between geological sinkholes and corporal openings of the body as landscape, a place of experience, while revealing a fundamental aspect of his sculpture which has been overlooked till now: his desire for efficient communication.

Bio: Tarquin Sinan is a PhD student at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. His current research focuses on spatial issues in contemporary sculpture in Great Britain. His thesis (Current sculpture and its spaces; a focus on Great-Britain – from conception to reception, a study of the sculptural frame) is co-directed by Sébastien Clérbois (ULB) and Martina Droth (Yale Center For Britsh Art) and focuses on space as a creative and perceptive factor in the experience of sculpture, by studying paradigms such as landscape, architecture and time.

* Image: From Quantum Cloud 1999-2009, http://www.antonygormley.com/sculpture/item-view/id/269#p19