As suggested by its title, Drawn Apart evokes a conscious sense of corporeal unease; the legs are splayed outwards in a perpendicular split, while the arms point directly upwards, with palms facing away from the body. The effect is contorted; overwhelmingly geometric and decidedly unnatural. Gormley identifies this figure as one of his Suspended and Gravity Works – his longest running sculptural series, spanning from 1984 to 2012. Works from this series are identified by their shared attempts to undermine the certainty of the spectator as to their position in space; they are subversive and evoke a mood of beguiling disquiet. However, in its inherent sense of contortion and stretch, the present work also seems reminiscent of Gormley’s Extended Works, created between 1984 and 1996. These works share that sense of distortion that is inherent in the present work and use the human body as a tool with which to test an architectural environment in a comparable way.
Drawn Apart is designed to sit flush to the corner of its viewing space. In Gormley’s Drawn show at White Cube in 2000, eight works were part of a single work that made up a comprehensive architectonic scheme. Each of the figures were positioned in the eight corners of the exhibition space, with limbs following the lines between floor, ceiling, and walls, so as to construct a sort of anthropomorphic framework within the architectural environment. In this way, the orientations of verticality and horizontality were undermined, as if the entire space could revolve and rotate around the new axes that Gormley had created. Moreover, through creating this framework, Gormley implicated the entire exhibition space as part of the work. Throughout the history of Western art, figurative sculpture had traditionally been viewed in the round to be considered from all angles but in Drawn this relationship is subverted so that the viewer is surrounded by the work and its void. In the artist’s own words: “The classical position of sculpture as an absolute object placed in space has been replaced by constructing a provisional energy field in space” (Antony Gormley in conversation with Pierre Tillet, in: Exh. Cat., Rotterdam, Kunsthal, Antony Gormley: Between You and Me, 2008, p. 59).
Drawn Apart is the fourth of eight works released separately, existing apart in space and acting independently, in distinction to Drawn where the eight parts are always seen together. It activates whatever space it is in and implicates the viewer in an interrogation of the stability of both the body and of architecture.
Throughout his career, Gormley’s work has relied upon using the human figure as a tool with which to directly relate to his viewer; his works are intended as stimuli, prompting a contemplation of man’s metaphysical purpose and place. The present work is absolutely in keeping with this focus. Cast life-size from the artist’s own body, and installed so as to physically challenge the viewer it is a fine example of his central concern: “The body is a language before language. When made still in sculpture it can be a witness to life” (Antony Gormley in conversation with Udo Kittleman in: Exh. Cat., Kolnischer, Kunstverein, Total Strangers, 1999, p. 22).
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