Antony Gormley born 1950
Bread and parafin wax
unconfirmed: 280 x 2200 x 1680 mm
Tate Britain, London
Sometimes exhibits and commentaries on exhibits at The Tate in London can be rather.... er "startling".
Here is the full commentary which can be viewed by following the above link.
In the early 1970s, before he went to art school, Gormley made a series of Sleeping Place sculptures which no longer exist. To make these, he draped cloth, soaked in plaster, over bodies lying huddled on the ground. This created free-standing white tents which enclosed the space of the huddled body, providing a vulnerable covering for sleep.
With Bed the artist returned to the theme of a sleeping place, this time using a double mirror-image representation of his recumbent body, delineated in the hollows eaten out of layers of sliced white bread.
Gormley used 8640 slices of Mother's Pride (1) bread (minus those he ate in making the negative spaces), which he dried and dipped in paraffin wax before stacking and layering them to produce the final form.
The volume of the artist's body is represented by empty space, the contours of which are defined by a surrounding environment composed of bread. Referring to the inevitable destruction (or evaporation) of matter through consumption and digestion (solid to liquid to air), this work also suggests the body's ability to transform it into spirit.
Gormley had a strict Catholic upbringing, both from his father's family (Catholic Irish) and the Benedictine boarding school he attended.
Bed suggests the Catholic ritual of consuming the body and spirit of Christ, dually symbolised by bread, through the taking of the sacrament.
The pose of the absent and supposedly sleeping figure, arms folded on the chest, replicates the traditional pose of the dead carved on mediaeval tombs.
The growth of mould on the bread illustrates the life-death-life cycle literally: as one substance decays, another organism is able to take life. Bed, the usual location for conception, birth and death, becomes the ground for the transformative processes of life itself. "
Footnote 1: Mother's Pride is a brand name for a variety of breads produced by British Bakeries, a division of Premier Foods