Sir Antony Gormley OBE x Jamie Lawson Evans ‘Clasp’ Collaboration

A lot of people have been asking me, “how did your collaboration with Sir Antony Gormley come about?”. Let me explain.

Sir Antony describes in an interview with the Tate how sculpture is inextricably linked with its environment, changing organically to fit its surroundings. ‘Clasp’ was placed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. My collaboration with ‘Clasp’ was an organic and natural interaction with the sculpture, just not in the way Sir Gormley might have been expecting. No disrespect meant to the artist, but how would he have known when he is from London? I understand that collaborative art is usually agreed upon by both parties, but this was something of a different nature. I did not seek permission to collaborate with Sir Antony Gormley on ‘Clasp’. Not from the perspective of a vandal, but as an artist and by knowing from experience how higher-ups perceive me as a Northern, working-class male.

I am unashamedly working-class, and I have spoken many times of my hometown of Ashington. I am exceedingly aware how vastly different my upbringing was to that of my peers at Newcastle University. As a result, I have a very different outlook and ethos in the creation of my work. My first steps into the art world were through graffiti, I am no stranger to writing on things which “aren’t mine”, so the initial concept of collaboration was not alien to me. What separates this act of artistic collaboration aside from mindless vandalism is simply my intentions, as it was never to deface or to damage, and I certainly did not hold any ill-will toward the artist or the sculpture. Place yourself in my shoes. Had I not taken my own initiative and instead chosen to gain official authorization, I know that my idea would not have even made it into Sir Antony’s inbox. I am an artist from a solidly working-class origin, collaborating with an artist who has been elevated to the highest strata of society and been given a knighthood: the official seal of approval by the establishment. To get such approval, it is required that you must bow and kneel before those who are deemed 'royal' and accept your subservient position. Without forcing the collaborative endeavor, the class system which is entrenched in British society would never have allowed this to happen. Here in Britain we do not have a caste system, but we may as well. This is what I am fighting against, and I do not seek 'official' approval to do so. 

The nature of my collaboration was spontaneous, and it was real. For that minute, art was the entire focus of my being. I was not in fear of the consequences of man-made law, as I knew that what I was doing truly was art, and not an act of vandalism. I hold no ill-feelings towards ‘Clasp’ or Sir Gormley, in fact, I appreciate his work and liked the sculpture pre-collaboration. However, did Sir Gormley not say that the beauty of sculpture is in its collaboration with its surroundings? I feel that the story I have brought to the sculpture is more authentic to the North East and so impactful that it has left a lasting impression. Our surroundings are not two-dimensional, but intricately connected within each of our lives and are there to be interacted with. This world is ours, despite it being ruled by things such as fractional reserve banking. Our planet is a speck of dust in infinite space where we know only that we do not know. There is magic present in life which is slowly being eradicated due to restrictions and guidelines drawn up by people who tell us that they know better. There is mindless obedience over the natural order.

The people who make this world a worse place do not take rest, or days off. So, if you truly care, you must adopt a similar work-ethic. Educate yourself and don’t just consume that which reaffirms your own reality. In whatever way you can it is your duty as a human to try to make a difference.

Lastly, let me make this clear. I do not wish to make it acceptable to paint on another's artwork - I would never do the same with a painting or sculpture inside a gallery, as I feel that inside spaces are of a different nature to those outside, in the 'public' domain. Art which is placed in a public space is subject to different rules than that of artwork inside a gallery. I also would reject the hypothetical idea of traveling round to find more Gormley sculptures to collaborate with, as that would not be an authentic, asymmetric collaboration as I have done on 'Clasp'. I would see that as a form of attention seeking, and defacement of another artists work. I am a graduate of Newcastle University, and a proud one at that. Therefore, I felt a special affinity with the space upon campus that 'Clasp' was installed upon and felt it acceptable and appropriate to interact with my world. And it is in that manner that I believe we should set out to change the world we inhabit for the better - start with your own little world first, and then look wider. Do not seek to stray into territory which is unfamiliar to you and seek to change that which you do not understand. Do what you know needs done in your immediate reach, and the action will reverberate around the entire planet. 

We are all on an equal playing field when it comes down to it. We all shall die one day, and our material works will one day also perish... they may be kept alive for a prolonged time inside a museum or a private space, but eventually will inevitably return to the dust from which it came. Art reminds us of this, whilst at the same time making us aware of the infinite potential which is held within the human mind. The landscape in which we live today must be changed for the better. We all know this, and those in positions of power cannot be trusted to control the direction of human progression.

‘Clasp’ close up, photo credit to Jay Dawson.

‘Clasp’ close up, photo credit to Jay Dawson.