I haven’t yet been to see the Antony Gormley exhibition ‘Blind Light’ currently on at The Hayward Gallery but on two recent visits to the newly renovated and refurbished Southbank (to catch a couple of performances as part of the summer Meltdown Festival) I was struck by his wonderful figures (sculptural casts of the artist’s body) dotted about the rooftops of the Southbank (and on distant buildings on the other side of the Thames).

Gormley figures

The sensation is a weird one: of being watched over, simultaneously ‘spied on’ and ‘protected’. There is also a very palpable ‘tension’ – they all appear to be contemplating jumping (and unlike Gormley’s Angel of the North they don’t have wings to break their fall and save them). The tension is heightened by the ‘push and pull’ of the Royal Festival Hall’s angular, arcing Modernism and the Hayward’s Brutalism – all power, mass and exposed concrete.

Gormley figures

There are also some figures to be found at street level… this can come as a bit of a shock, unexpectedly encountering one of these life-size naked men as you make your way back to Waterloo tube station in the dark after having your insides turned outside by Sunn O))). They also appear to have had their ‘insides turned outside’, or at least to have been flayed – the colour and surface texture are wonderful… a kind of beautiful decay.

Gormley figure