A mysterious figure looks down from above on the roof of the Roundhouse. Guest writer Jennifer Richards on artist Antony Gormley and his relationship with the Roundhouse.
“Art confronts life, allowing it to stop and perhaps change direction.” – Antony Gormley
The mark left by sculptor Sir Antony Gormley on the British landscape is undeniable, both in his unique take on the relationship between the human body and space, but also in the physical sense – his famous Angel of the North (1998) currently towers over the motorways and rail routes passing into Tyneside.
London is often the home to many of Gormley’s sculptures, including Another Time (2013) where a statue of a man stood in the Thames. It is even rumoured that Gandalf himself, Sir Ian McKellen, bought the statue.
When the Roundhouse reopened in 2006 along with its extension, there was a new addition to the roof. Gormley’s dark figure stands straight and thin on the rooftop, watching over Camden and gig-goers. The design of the figure, entitled You, gives the impression to onlookers of being squeezed into a tight urban surrounding, perhaps a comment on London life.
The statue is similar to Gormley’s following project Event Horizon (2007) which saw 31 figures decorate the Southbank skyline on rooftops, though the Roundhouse was lucky to be the first.
However, that isn’t Gormley’s only link to Camden. His work in Maygrove Peace Park was opened in 1984, on the anniversary of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, having been commissioned by Camden council as a display of peace and has been given a Grade II listing.
Gormley encapsulates the essence of modern day creativity, seeing art as more than just something for the eyes.
“Art is the means by which we communicate what it feels like to be alive.” – Antony Gormley
Gormley has said that he cares most about making space, focusing on both the space that exists within us and around us.
“For me, art is not about objects of high monetary exchange, it’s about reassessing our first-hand experience in present time.” – Antony Gormley
His concentration on the relationship between the human body and space enables him to unpick the idea of where humans stand in relationship to nature and the universe, with many of his statues frequently being of his body placed in natural surroundings.
In the age of laptops and smartphones, Gormley asks us to instead turn back to the elemental world.
Despite Gormley’s work typically including statues of himself, his sculptures are far from being a comment purely on his own life. The collaborative nature of his work is shown in projects such as Field (2004), which saw communities from across the globe creating installations of hand-sized figurines.
In 2009 when Gormley was commissioned to fill the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, he chose to fill it with Londoners. Whatever it is they wanted to do, it was the city’s people that got the stage.
Even when citizens don’t make up the artwork, it is always something to experience. You can even stay in his Humanoid hotel room at the Beaumont hotel, as though it may look like a cubistic man from the outside, there is an actual hotel room inside. It’s the mixing of art and architecture that sets Gormley apart.
Whether you have seen Gormley’s statues in an exhibition or you’ve noticed his pieces around London, his work is sure to leave an imprint long after you’ve seen it.
So, while the roof may seem a strange place to look next time you join us at The Roundhouse for a gig or a show, it is certainly worth casting your eyes upwards.