Last term, Fifth Year student Maxwell had the incredible opportunity to gain work experience with the famous sculptor and Turner Prize Winner, Antony Gormley, well known for his Angel of the North sculpture among many others. 

Here Maxwell tells us all about it: 

“I was lucky to be offered the opportunity to spend a week at Antony Gormley’s working art studio through a friend of my family, Adam, who is the lead designer and senior art director there. 

The studios are in Kings Cross in a beautiful purpose-built space designed by David Chipperfield, and I was excited and a bit daunted going in on my first day. 

The first project I got involved in was creating a polystyrene model. However, this wasn’t just any ordinary sculpture, it was based on a digital model of Antony Gormley himself but simplified into geometric shapes like cubes and blocks.   

Using computer modelling software called Rhino as a reference, I had to turn the complex shape of a human falling backwards into these basic forms. It was a unique and challenging task. Antony was happy with what I had created and asked me to build a second model.   

This one was of a standing figure and was about 1m tall when finished, and if they could prepare my sculpture in time, they would include it in the work that was to be sent to the foundry to be cast in iron!   

The casting process is quite complicated and has been developed by Antony’s team to be able to capture the fine detail of some of the work which is incredibly intricate. The process is similar to the lost wax method: 

First the polystyrene model is prepared for casting and reinforcement is welded to the model to make sure it remains in exactly the same position before being encased in a forma with very fine sand. The sand is vibrated to remove any air spaces and tightly pack the sand around the model. Molten metal is poured into the forma where it instantly vaporises the polystyrene and replaces the space left behind with iron. Later the sand is removed leaving the sculpture ready to be cleaned up and polished before being exhibited. 

One of the highlights of my experience was when my family and I got invited to Antony Gormley’s ‘Body Politic’ exhibition at the White Cube gallery. There, we saw a huge version of the model I had helped with. It was over 10 metres tall and seeing it was a very proud moment for me. 

The exhibition included lots of amazing steel and iron sculptures as well concrete cast sculptures.   

In one of the spaces the entire floor space is laid out with fired clay bricks arranged in a way that each represents a human in various poses. It was great to see the work I had watched being created presented in an art gallery space. It really gave me an insight into the full end to end process from initial idea to final art installation.    

Working with Antony Gormley wasn’t just about making models and sculptures, it was a real learning experience. I got to see how art is created from start to finish, and it’s something I’ll always remember and use as inspiration in my own art.”  

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