Dated 1988, the present work evolved over a five-year period. Spanning the very first instance of clay’s appearance as a counterpart to lead case forms in works such as Out of this World (1983-84) and Work (1984), Night and Day also anticipates his most ambitious work in terracotta, the acclaimed opus of installation pieces called Field (1989 – 2003). In its most complete iteration, thousands of diminutive red-orange forms, rudimentary in facture and each sporting two shallow holes for eyes, occupy and fill their given gallery space. A legion of tiny bodies hand-moulded from elemental earth-matter, these are confrontational and deeply humanistic works. Initially created with the help of friends and neighbours, Gormley expanded his project by enlisting the help of local communities, first in Mexico for American Field of 1991, and later those in the Amazon, the British Isles, Europe, and China. Indeed, conceived as an intentionally communal, or “tribal”, enterprise, these works in terracotta brought him out of “a crisis”, Gormley has explained, “to do with feeling trapped within this privileged position of the Western artist, working in his own space in his own time” (Antony Gormley, cited in: Ibid., p. 171). Formed by many individuals across diverse cultures, these works are deeply connected to the earth from which they are made and the human hands that formed them; this is what clay brings for Gormley, it is a way of connecting his practice to a greater network, opening it out to a wider sphere. Where lead, with its alchemical significance as a base material of transformative potential, put forth spatial propositions centred on individual human encasements, Gormley’s loosely articulated clay figures symbolise the multitudinous, the many, the populous; they are humanity on an intimate yet grand scale. Presaging this ambitious project, Night and Day presents a vision that confronts the future. Closely related to the major work Man Asleep (1985) in which a procession of clay bodies march away from a sleeping lead body, Night and Day forms a clear link between a closed inner state of consciousness and the world at large.
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