Exhibition review: Fog-bound in the Hayward

Antony Gormley: Blind Light


The Hayward Gallery, South Bank Centre, London

Until 19 August

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt in a fog at a contemporary art exhibition. Antony Gormley’s retrospective at The Hayward has created yet another talking point with its centrepiece, Blind Light, a cloud-filled chamber that disorients visitors.

Certainly it’s a strange sensation being unable to see beyond a few centimetres, but the experience is not unique – and one only has to go to a nightclub with an overzealous dry ice handler to replicate this vaporous space.

The former Turner prizewinner’s artworks have endeared themselves to an initially sceptical public. One only has to consider his installation figures on Crosby beach in Merseyside and, most famously, his Angel of the North, which have made him one of the most celebrated contemporary artists.

With his sensible haircut and small round glasses, he could easily pass for a social worker, although he does not quite have the inclusive principles associated with the profession since much of his interactive work is, at best, difficult to navigate.

Blind Light, for example, has limited visibility and a constant wet floor from vapour collections, while Allotment II, a series of blocks amassed in rows, is impossible for wheelchair users to steer between.

The good news is that the best piece, Event Horizon, can be seen without the need to fork out the £8 gallery fee. Featuring 31 life-sized figures, these contemplative casts have sparked several reports of suicide attempts as they are perched precariously on the rooftops of buildings next to the Haywood Gallery. But, like most of his artwork, it is at first unsettling and yet somehow quickly becomes familiar and comforting.

Looking down at passers-by, this is where the nation’s favourite sculptor’s work belongs – out in the open, to be enjoyed by everyone.

Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark, south London

● More information at www.southbankcentre.co.uk/Gormley

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