Sunday, 8 June 2008
Visiting Liverpool, our first thought was to do our usual style of walk inland. But then a much better idea struck - why not go and see Antony Gormley's celebrated men on the beach / in the sea at Crosby.
We parked in a quiet street full of splendid Victorian mansions, crossed a grassy area behind the dunes and came on the beach with a promenade behind it. The picture below shows the first view of men and beach.
The installation - correctly known as "Another place" - consists of 100 life size figures spread out along 3 km of beach. They are made from cast iron, from a mold of the artist's body.
I hadn't realised that they had previously been displayed in Cruxhaven in Germany, Stavanger in Norway and De Panne in Belgium. It had been planned that they would move to New York at the end of 2006 but after a successful appeal it is now planned that they will remain permanently in Crosby.
The figures are all on a one metre base and some are slightly above ground (sand) level and others are set into the sand up to the knees. Most are immersed in the sea at high tide, while some are permanently under water.
One surprising feature is that because the figures are quite widely spaced out, you can only really see a few at a time. Looking along the beach they become indistinguishable from the real people out for a walk or sight-seeing.
It would be interesting to see an aerial photo, but it seems that the figures are arranged in parallel lines at a slight angle to the shore, so that as you walk along the beach from south to north the figures are gradually further from the shoreline.
According to Sefton Council's website "The work is seen as a poetic response to the individual and universal sentiments associated with emigration - sadness at leaving, but the hope of a new future in another place."
The figures certainly have a melancholy air, but you could just as well see them as waiting ....
Gormley's own website says that " The idea was to test time and tide, stillness and movement, and somehow engage with the daily life of the beach." And this they definitely do. You can see how exposure to the elements has changed the figures in different ways, and they also make the beach a more interesting place - you could see people taking photos draped over the figures, lined up with them, placing hats and scarfs on them. Perhaps inevitably, one or two have been treated to a a paint job.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that Gormley has a strong narcissistic streak - most of his work seems to involve his own body - but this is a truly impressive and affecting work of art.