Antony Gormley cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery, Antony Gormley: Blind Light, 2006, p. 43.
Reflecting both a continuation of past explorations and a dynamic new direction in Antony Gormley’s artistic practice, Submit IV, 2011, hails from the Proppers series. This body of work can be traced back to the Blockworks, a series that began in 2001 and used cast iron blocks to reconstruct the mass of a human body in pixelated form. The Proppers evolved this concept in an attempt to reduce the number of elements needed to recreate this pixelated effect whilst still constricting the iron blocks or beams to the boundaries of a human figure. Drawing on the tectonics of post and lintel architecture, Submit IV translates the mass of the human body into the semblance of a modernist constructional feat.
Although Submit IV may appear like an imposing and meticulously constructed architectural form, its presence was playfully conceived. Gormley drew inspiration from the childhood game of placing blocks one on top of another, each time attempting to reach new heights before the tower’s inevitable collapse. Thus, this work straddles a fine line between formalism and playfulness, enacting a careful balance between dynamism and gravity.
The title of this piece underlines Gormley’s play with language and form; by employing the term ‘submit’ the artist invokes compliance and capitulation, a choice of vocabulary that chimes with the figure’s submissive pose. With its head bowed this sculpture is acquiescent and almost mournful; purely through an empathetic reading of body language the viewer readily makes an emotional assumption. Nonetheless, where in Western culture the bowing of one’s head may be perceived as a form of submission or melancholic state, this is contradicted by many other cultures, specifically Eastern cultures in which the bow is considered a sign of respect. Therefore Submit IV delivers Gormley’s keen explorations into the relativities of posture and body language and how these may be interpreted differently from one viewer to the next. In fact, Gormley goes so far as to say that “how an object is interpreted or experienced by the viewer is none of my business at all. My feeling is that if I get the crystallisation of the mineral part of it right, the emotional and intellectual engagement of the viewer will be the other half of the equation” (Antony Gormley cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery, Antony Gormley: Blind Light, 2006, p. 43).
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