SYLVIA VETTA is moved by the profound nature of Antony Gormley's latest sculptures on view at the Hayward Gallery

My first encounter with Antony Gormley was in Birmingham's Victoria Square in 1994. His Iron Man loomed over me like a mummified version of the artist. I have a childlike attraction to anything from Ancient Egypt and so it made a strong impression. That reaction is not surprising because Gormley has revealed his love of the strong presence of Egyptian sculpture. He likes sculpture to be "a still point in a moving world".

Our next meeting was at the Royal Academy in 1998. 'The artist' was suspended from archways and seen climbing out of windows. Although lifelike, these figures were created from plaster casts of himself.

Throughout his career Gormley has used his own body as an archetype, sometimes with disarming wit and humour.

His earliest work was inspired by the sight of sleeping people on the streets of India. He describes that experience as "powerful and beautiful" and he wanted to capture the "sanctity and fragility of life". He also has a sense of the monumental as anyone driving past the Angel of the North will realise.

Is this artist a symbol of everyman? The rapport experienced by many Liverpudlians with Gormley's iron men on Crosby beach resulted in a popular campaign to 'Save our Statues'. The combined opposition of Sefton Council's health and safety brigade and the cod lobby wanted them transported away. For once art triumphed over bureaucracy and Another Place is now a permanent installation and is said to have boosted the local economy.

This is not the first time Gormley's work has been shown at the Hayward Gallery. In 1996, two years after he won the Turner Prize, it mounted one of its most popular exhibitions, Field for the British Isles. A much larger version using 300,000 clay models was Asian Field, his Chinese installation. Field, like Iron Man, captured the spirit of our ancestors.

I think passers-by will enjoy the 31 body forms on buildings on both sides of the Thames and encircling the Hayward Gallery. These figures called Event Horizon make us stop for a moment and see familiar places in a different way.

Children will love locating them and Hungerford Bridge is a good location to start the count. Even taxi drivers have warmed to them so maybe Londoners will campaign to keep them as a permanent feature on the skyline. They wanted to mount one on the Houses of Parliament and in rejecting the idea the politicians may have missed an opportunity 'to connect'.

I hope the extraordinary installations, Blind Light and Hatch do not arouse the attention of killjoys because of the slight risk involved.

Blind Light, at the heart of the show, has attracted a lot of attention. It is a cloud of mist contained within a brightly lit glass box. Take one step over the threshold and you cannot see even though you are immersed in white light. It is a strange disembodying experience. Gormley said: "the viewer becomes the subject".

Hatch is a somewhat disorienting labyrinth. The construction is mostly made from aluminium square tubes but the feeling, as you walk through, is as if they surround glass.

The works in Gallery 5 continue the artist's exploration of the body. It takes a moment to focus on the spectral human shapes within the light infused webs of steel but the effect is a beautiful fragility.

The immense Space Station, made from 200 tons of Corten steel plate, is impressive and best seen from above where its origin in the crouching human form becomes visible. The artist says creating these complex installations was "a roller coaster ride". The conversations with firms who worked with him and the team at the Hayward helped to "realise a dream and foster people's faith in imagination".

There is a simplicity that is profound about Antony Gormley's work. He is by far the most interesting sculptor working today. He believes everyone can respond to a poem or a work of art. He makes contact because he is a symbol of every human experiencing the world through his or her body. Here is an artist trying to make sense of our consciousness in a way that was once the province of religion.

The Hayward Gallery is just part of the 21-acre site of the South Bank and the refurbished Royal Festival Hall opens in July. The Blind Light exhibition continues until August 19. Opening hours are daily from 10am-6pm and late night's on Friday and Saturday until 10pm. I recommend taking the Tube to Embankment and walking over Hungerford Bridge to take in Event Horizon. Then, see the figures from a new perspective from the terrace of the gallery. This is the theatre of public art as Renaissance Italy knew it.

For tickets and more information visit the website or call 0871 663 2509.