Antony Gormley is best known for large public projects, often using his own or others’ bodies as subject matter. His most famous work is the 20-metre steel sculpture, Angel of the North 1994-98, situated near a motorway in northern England on the site of a disused colliery. The new acquisition at the National Gallery of Australia, Angel of the North (Life-size maquette), is a 1:10 model of the larger work, made of cast iron rather than steel.
The maquette is now installed in the Sculpture Garden. The sculpture is positioned at the end of a long path which stretches from Rodin’s bronzes to the lake shore. It stands silhouetted against the sky, drawing attention to the vista. Angel of the North (Life-size maquette), like the large version, uses a featureless human figure based on Gormley’s body. It is attached to a large wing or blade, shaped rather like the wing of an old monoplane. Both are marked by ribbed lines. Unlike the traditional iconography of angels, these wings are industrial in material, artificially manufactured rather than made of feathers. As well as evoking a celestial messenger, the Angel of the North recalls the human/divine sacrifice of the Crucifixion.
Gormley is the predominant figurative sculptor in Britain today. Born in London in 1950, he studied at Cambridge, then in London at the Central School of Art, Goldsmiths College and the Slade School of Art. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994, and appointed a Royal Academician in 2003. Gormley’s work has been included in the Venice Biennale and Biennale of Sydney, among many important international exhibitions. Blind light, a major solo show, was held at the Hayward Gallery in 2007. His career ‘has revitalised the human image in sculpture through a radical investigation of the body as a place of memory and transformation’. (Blind light 2007, jacket notes)
Angel of the North (Life-size maquette), generously given by Mr and Mrs Erskine, is one of the most significant gifts ever donated to the National Gallery of Australia.
Senior Curator International Painting and Sculpture
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010