The genious of Gormley

The genious of Gormley

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 I was determined to make a significant   detour during  August to see some public sculpture on Crosby beach and this short piece gives me an opportunity to show off some of my photographs. The journey to Liverpool  was not in vain and  I was able to glimpse again at first hand the sheer genius of Gormley  as a sculptor and public artist.

Another place  consists (I believe 60)  cast iron sculptures of the artist’s own body, facing towards the sea. The original proposal was for the Wattenmeer, Cuxhaven, Germany in 1995 and here is the brief:

“To install a hundred solid cast iron bodyforms along the coast to the west and south of the Kugelbake. The work will occupy an area of 1.75 square kilometres, with the pieces placed between 50 and 250 metres apart along the tideline and one kilometre out towards the horizon, to which they will all be facing. Depending on the fall of the land, the state of the tide, the weather conditions and the time of day the work will be more or less visible. The sculptures will be installed on a level plane attached to 2 metre vertical steel piles. The ones closest to the horizon will stand on the sand, those nearer the shore being progressively buried. At high water, the sculptures that are completely visible when the tide is out will be standing up to their necks in water.”

The  cast  iron   body forms  were displayed  at several  locations  in Europe  but now have found  a permanent home  here  at Crosby beach .  the proposal to do so was controversial  but Sefton Council  in 2007   made a bold and imaginative decision  that would allow the sculptures to be kept permanently at Crosby Beach in place of being moved to New York.

Lt’s look  at some of these sculptures  more closely


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The sculptures are made from 17 body-casts taken from Gormley’s   body. The sculptures are all standing in a similar way, with the lungs more or less inflated and their postures carrying different degrees of tension or relaxation.  The                  installation  stretched 2.5 kilometres down the coast and 1 kilometre out to sea, with an average distance between the pieces of 500 metres. They were all on a level and those closest to the shore were buried as far as their knees.

The idea was to test time and tide, stillness and movement, and somehow engage with the daily life of the beach. This was no exercise in romantic escapism.  The  figures  themselves  have a  deep sense of serenity  and thoughtfulness   as they  stare out in the same direction  –  there is a kind of deep  connectedness and attentiveness .  Contemplation, attention  and focus   were the words  that came  most immediately  to mind  as I wandered up and down the beach.  The tide   was moving   swiftly in  and so it was fascinating  to see  some of the statues  being immersed  in water .

 Gormley remains  a master of public art  and I was quite extraordinarily moved by the way in which this art  evokes such a powerful sense both life and death ; of nature claiming  its extraordinary claim on   humanity and sometimes our  powerlessness over  the forces of nature and  perhaps even life itself? It is however  this stillness and contemplation  that I think  is the radical voice  of this work.

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