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When sculptor Anthony Gormley went Down Under

Artist speaks at fund-raiser for the Camden Psychotherapy Unit

08 November, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Hugh Brody and Anthony Gormley at the Belsize Square Synagogue

ARTIST Anthony Gormley – known for his figure-like sculptures – has put his work in places that range from the roof of the Chalk Farm Roundhouse, to a beach on the Mersey estuary, to a hill overlooking the A1 in Gateshead.

And last night (Wednesday) at the Belsize Square Synagogue, at an event to raise funds for the Camden Psychotherapy Unit charity, he told the story of one of his more unusual projects: a piece he completed 15 years ago in the depths of the Australian Outback.

The evening included the screening of documentary film Inside Australia, which tells how Mr Gormley created 51 figures and placed them on a dried-up salt lake in Western Australia.

The King’s Cross-based artist, who has previously won the Turner Prize, spoke about a project he had been commissioned to create for the Perth Arts Festival in Australia. He had been asked to put a sculpture in the middle of the city but, as the film revealed, he instead told them: “Hire me a small plane and I will fly out and find a space to create a community of art.”

The artist scanned the naked bodies of people living in the tiny Outback town of Menzies, and then used the images to create a series of sticklike figures from an alloy of hardwearing metals.

Mr Gormley revealed how, when he chose Menzies for the installation, he walked into the town’s police station and asked officers what they thought of the project. “They said: are the sculptures going to be worth anything? I said, ‘oh, may be a few hundred-thousand’. They looked at me and asked if I was mad.”

He revealed he had met anthropologist Hugh Brody, who made the film, after he had read his book, The Other Side Of Eden.

Mr Gormley said: “It changed my life. I met him and told him that and we started talking. I asked Hugh if he could come in and help film the project.” The pieces are around 700 metres apart from each other, and Mr Gormley was asked by novelist Tracey Chevalier, who was in the audience last night, how they had fared 15 years after they had been installed.

He said: “The work is now curated by the Art Gallery of Western Australia, so they are looked after. “But previously people would say, ‘let’s go out and see the sculptures’. They would drive there in a four-by-four. They’d get stuck in the lake bed and use the pieces as a winch to get themselves out.”

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