~ Posted by Samantha Weinberg, March 9th 2012
An artist who put an angel with a 57-metre wing span on a hill overlooking the A1 is unlikely to be lacking in ambition. Last night Antony Gormley, creator of the "Angel of the North", showed fellow alumni of his old college (Trinity, Cambridge) round his London studio, where he is preparing for three shows—all of which open within the next six weeks.
We were surrounded by works in progress: in one corner, teetering blocks of iron, like outsized Jenga sets, were destined for San Gimignano; hoisted in the rafters was three-fifths of what he explained would be a shiny black floating platform suspended from the ceiling of the vast Deichtorhallen in Hamburg; while a model of the metal "cloud" that is at this moment being constructed in São Paulo dangled from another corner.
All of the pieces were striking as works of art, but what was perhaps less immediately apparent was the degree to which each, in its own way, was also a feat of science. The Jenga blocks were engineered precisely to look as if they were on the verge of collapsing—which, being made of a total of 65 tons of iron, they could never be permitted to do. The platform had to be strong enough to withstand the weight of 100 visitors at a time, as well as German health and safety laws; while the piece headed for Brazil was designed in quarter-scale at his King’s Cross studio, and emailed to São Paulo as a 3D Rhino file.
Gormley described the creative process as “half empirical, half intuition”, pointing to one of the many laptops scattered around the studio, encased in protective boxes. “We use computers the whole time. There’s a lot of mathematics in all of my works.” In the wider world, as in Gormley’s studio, there is a growing sense that the wall between art and science is being steadily demolished. And that process can only be accelerated if the likes of the "Angel of the North" are appreciated not just as works of art, but as feats of engineering.
Samantha Weinberg is assistant editor of Intelligent life