Antony Gormley from Britain and Wolfgang Laib from Germany are contemporary artists who show the most evident and the most relevant links with Egyptian art. Both were born in 1950, Gormley in London and Laib in Metzinger, and they also share their concentration on sculpture since the 70s. The British artist centers his art on the human figure, using his own body as model and subject. The German artist works essentially with natural materials —pollen, milk, rice, and wax — for their symbolic and cosmogonic consonances. Both concentrate on cycles of works, allegorical personifications of mankind for Antony Gormley, the spirituality of pure forms for Wolfgang Laib. Gormley’s sculptures and Laib’s installations combine with a spiritualisation of matter, which refers back to the most ancient mythical languages, and which takes us far into our cultural unconsciousness.
Passageway. Inside – Downside by Wolfgang Laib refers to the sun bark in Egyptian mythology. The installation consists of around 100 golden copper boats sailing on white rice. As a metaphor for the conveyance of souls, it illustrates the passage of one state to another, of body to spirit, of material to immaterial, of life to death. These symbolic vessels seem to carry on Ra’s bark the “justified” people towards the West, where "earth and sky, the divine and the mortals are one unique thing" (Martin Heidegger).
The German artist’s Zikkurat synthesizes architecture and the function of a step pyramid. Seen from the front, it has a triangular form; from the side, it looks like stairs. One merges with the other as an allegory of climbing towards light. The fact that it is made of beeswax contributes to this spiritual metaphor. The smell of honey that envelops you brings a wonderful sublime impression, inspiring a feeling of well-being, like time suspended.
"I have been profoundly moved by Egyptian sculpture as it addresses itself to the provisionality of life and also, in its closed surface and attention to silhouette, allows the body to be conceived of as a case. This idea of sculpture as container is most commonly expressed in the mummy case but I would propose that it exists in the compound curvature of the surfaces of all Egyptian sculpture and its absolute surface tension. This results in a purity of silhouette being transferred to three dimensions".
"RISE (1983-1984) is my attempt to make a commentary about the funerary nature of sculpture. All sculpture that refers to the body acknowledges its eventual demise. Here, a lead case made for a vital body is at the same time earthbound. The hands touch the earth while its head strains upwards. The core of this work is the flat stomach plane and the sense of tension there. Here is a minimal movement that accepts the inertia of sculpture and the body’s relationship with the horizon and the earth but acknowledges the arising of consciousness".