Visitors to National Gallery Singapore can look forward to a unique and participatory experience through the exhibition Antony Gormley. On display from 6th August 2021 to 30th October 2022, the exhibition features the new large-scale installation Horizon Field Singapore (2021) as part of the Gallery’s annual Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Commission Series. For the first time, this year’s commissioned work is complemented by three further sculptures that together trace four decades of Gormley’s practice: Sense (1991), Close V (1998), and Ferment (2007). Placed at key locations throughout the Gallery, these works form a sequence of what the artist calls “acupuncture points” within the architecture, activating their surroundings and provoking connections with their audience.
The exhibition offers an introduction to the artist’s extensive body of work, which draws on a range of traditions and ideas including Buddhist sculpture and philosophy, Minimalism, and quantum physics. Many of Gormley’s works encourage viewers to focus their attention on their own movement and perception in relation to the surrounding space. In the new commission, Horizon Field Singapore, visitors can step into a matrix of intersecting metal and take part in a spatial experience that continually shifts as they walk through it. This work expands Gormley’s approach to sculpture as a collaborative, ongoing dialogue between the artist, the object and the audience.
Dr Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore said, “We are delighted to partner with Antony Gormley for this landmark exhibition. Gormley is the first international artist who was born or lives outside Asia to be featured in the Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Commission series, and we’re excited to see this engagement with the Roof Garden Gallery continue with his work in the Singapore context, after Asian Field (2005) and Drift (2009).”
“Horizon Field Singapore furthers Gormley’s exploration of space through its relations with people, and speaks to the region’s complex cultures and histories in its situatedness. By expanding this commission to include the artist’s earlier works, this exhibition exemplifies our commitment to connect our publics through art and its inspiring possibilities. Antony Gormley is an opportunity to further nurture our publics’ interest in art through this innovative, exciting and memorable experience.”Dr Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore
Antony Gormley said: “This is an amazing opportunity for me, being the first time I’ve worked remotely, and with so many people who I’ve never even met before! Even working via cyberspace, the result was better than we could ever have imagined, and I have so many people to thank, from Dr Eugene Tan who invited me to do this in the first place, to the curators who worked so hard to make sure it all works, to Kenji and his team who did the installation. It hasn’t been a straightforward journey, but I’m absolutely delighted with the results.”
Horizon Field Singapore spans the Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Gallery, acting as a continually mutating spatial frame for visitors to walk through and observe the work from within. Its title alludes to the horizon as the final limit of human perception, as an individual’s spatial and visual experience of the horizon shifts with their every move. Standing at almost 5m tall, Horizon Field Singapore offers a visceral experience fully realised through participation. The large-scale installation creates an environment for individual explorations, set against the historic Civic District skyscape.
“There’s a bit of dance here in Horizon Field Singapore: the circles could be hula hoops; it invites you to become aware of your more animal nature, to feel it… Walter Pater said that all art constantly aspires towards the condition of music – so it is something that exists outside of you, but also inside you, and in a way, possesses you,” says Gormley. “Horizon Field Singapore doesn’t have anything to show, it doesn’t have anything to tell. It is an invitation to feel your own life through the context that it gives you. It’s about the energy that made it, and the energy you bring to it, making it a collaboration between artist and audience, and you, coming in and being with it.”
“Horizon Field Singapore is the culmination and last step in a journey. In a way, half the work is about dwelling in the body, and thinking about the body as a place, trying to map it from the inside, not from appearance, but almost like you’re trying to energise the space itself, giving you an instrument to make your movement through time and space more present. It’s terrific seeing how the whole thing vibrates in the wind.”Anthony Gormley
Providing context for this new work are three of Gormley’s earlier sculptures: Sense (1991), Close V (1998), and Ferment (2007). In different ways, each of these sculptures questions the relationship between the human body and space. These works are exhibited throughout the Gallery’s iconic buildings, alongside important works of art from Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Stationed at the Gallery’s UOB City Hall Courtyard, Close V (1998) welcomes the Gallery’s visitors from the Coleman Street Entrance. This life-sized solid iron sculpture is cast from the artist’s body, and lies face-down on the floor. The sculpture’s position in the Gallery’s busy entrance encourages visitors to circle around it, drawing attention to ideas such as stillness and movement, lightness and gravity, and permanence and change.
Sense (1991) awaits visitors at Level 3 of the Supreme Court Wing, Southeast Asia Gallery. In this work, Gormley presents the human form as an empty void, its negative space compressed within a concrete cube. The sculpture explores Gormley’s conception of the human body as an architectural unit (the dimensions of the block are at the smallest scale that a crouching body can occupy) by using a material commonly used in construction. The work also suggests a continuity between the interior of the body – our consciousness – and the space around us – the cosmos.
Gormley’s exploration of quantum physics is evident in Ferment (2007), which hangs above the imperial staircases at the Gallery’s Supreme Court Foyer. Inspired by the structure of foaming bubbles, the work consists of geometric polygonal shapes made from stainless steel bars that suggest a human figure seemingly emerging from or disappearing into the matrix. Ferment challenges the solid form of traditional sculpture by presenting the human body as a dynamic energy field, its suspension providing a sense of weightlessness.
“What I’ve done for this rooftop commission is to create a memory of the past from colonial times, and reinterpreting it through contemporary architectural means and engineering,” Gormley concludes. “It’s a work that considers the way people move through the building, and considers how each of us carries our own horizon with us as we move through space and time. It’s to make us more aware of the stress we’re placing on the planet, to come face to face with this sculpture that is 7 times the gravitational mass of the human body, and as you look at it, I hope it makes you mindful.”
Complementing the exhibition is a range of interdisciplinary programmes throughout its duration, including talks, tours, discussions and performances, such as Resonates With: Fauxe, a series of solo piano improvisations inspired by Gormley’s sculptures performed by Singaporean producer, pianist, and improviser Fauxe.
Antony Gormley is on display from 6th August 2021 to 30th October 2022 at National Gallery Singapore. More information available here