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States and Conditions

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Living in one of the most densely populated cities in the world has cultivated my complex relationship with space. Admittedly, I relish living in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, a metropolis that positively hums with energy and vibrancy. However, the fact remains that I cannot get through a rush hour crowd without crashing into a dozen wealthy investment bankers, dilettante tai tais (housewives) and harried domestic helpers. To say that Hong Kong is crowded is most definitely an understatement.

So to step into Antony Gormley's 'States and Conditions' exhibition is somewhat of a solace. The intentional spaciousness of White Cube Gallery is a much needed antidote to the ostentation and congestion of the city. However, this deceptive emptiness disguises that fact that Antony Gormley's work is an exploration of space and density itself.

Even before entering the gallery, the audience is already challenged by the unconventional placing of the sculptures. A substantial iron blockwork sculpture (Ease) awkwardly obstructs the entrance, forcing navigation and consideration of space. Inside the gallery, sculptures are positioned not only on the floor but also all over the walls and ceiling. Gormley often utilizes steel lines to divide up space in his works, creating surprisingly imposing structures with such a delicate material. Within the gallery, a steel bar bisects the corridor, and the same material is used for the sculpture Secure (third image), a enlarged light bulb-like structure that fills the corridor. On the other hand, Gormley also creates works that explore scarcity of space. A steel sculpture, Transfer, occupies the niche between wall and ceiling, inviting reflection of what it means to exist in cramped conditions - an experience that is not at all foreign in Hong Kong.

In this exhibition, Antony Gormley really questions the ways in which space can be filled. Iron blockwork is a constant medium used in his work, such as the sculpture Form (last image), the low-slung structure that makes up in solidarity for what it lacks in size. In contrast, Gormley's large-scale space frame Murmur (first image) occupies an entire room with its powerful presence, not with substance but with the negative space that the metal frame encompasses. The juxtaposition blockwork and steel linear sculptures (second image) asks the viewer to reconsider traditional preconceptions of emptiness and confinement.

Gormley's works can be interpreted as a commentary on current urban construction, the alarming rate at which our cities develop and fill up space. Many of his works have the forms of unstable high rises, the asymmetrically stacked blocks possessing a static yet dynamically volatile quality, threatening imminent collapse. Such structures convey the state of perpetual change that us urbanites know too well. Ultimately, Gormley expresses that all space and solidarity can only be ephemeral.
28 MARCH - 3 MAY 2014

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