Another place…another time…another people…silent figures defying time and tide, looking out to the Mersey Estuary to the migrants who came and left and those who remain. I guess because I am from one of those migrants I feel the pull of these statues. If you haven’t seen them do yourself a favour and make the trip.
Another Place is a piece of modern sculpture by Sir Antony Gormley located at Crosby Beach in Merseyside, England. It consists of 100 cast iron figures facing towards the sea. The figures are modelled on the artist’s own naked body.
This work features in two of my novels Under The Bridge and Fire Next Time.
The location of the figures rising from the sand and staring out to sea are evocative of the tens of thousands of emigrants that have passed through Liverpool and The Mersey Estuary. In Under the Bridge, the character Anne is in Crosby.
They were walking out toward the channels of water, and Anne became aware of a figure standing in the distance. It wasn’t until they were closer that she realised it was a statue embedded in the sand.
“Wait, what is that?” Her face lit up with recognition. “Ahh, I know, I’ve heard about these.”
“The statues,” said Dave.
“Yeah, Anthony Gormley. You know, I’ve been meaning to come and see these for ages. It’s so cool to be here.”
Anne walked around the red and rusting metal figure, one of a hundred along three kilometers of beach. They stretched out to sea and were submerged and revealed with the ebb and flow of the tide. The statue, legs together and arms at its side, was taller than her. It had no facial features or detail as if the tidal waters had removed them in its incessant motion, leaving rounded soft edges and curves. She touched the cast figure and felt the surface rust and the red powder stained her finger.
Dave was wandering a little further afield.
Stepping back from the statue, Anne stood behind it and looked from its point of view at the incoming tidal waters. What could he see? What was he looking for? Was he waiting for something, someone? Someone who would arrive, or was he looking back, to where he had come from? This figure, this scene, suddenly felt so real to her. Halfway between the land and sea, halfway between the city and the world outside, but belonging completely to neither. Not knowing which was real, which was true, to which he belonged. An overwhelming sense of sadness gripped her. What had he lost that made him stand out here? A tear grew and rolled down her cheek. Wiping it away, she understood for the first time, that what she and Vinny were doing was the same thing.
“Hey.” Dave was watching her. “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, can we go get that coffee now?”
She leaned toward him and kissed him gently on the cheek.
“Now, I’m definitely glad I brought you,” Dave joked.
She smiled a little sadly. She knew it was a goodbye kiss.
The first Antony Gormley work I saw was The Field in the Tate in Liverpool. I’m not sure when but many years ago. What struck me was how the individuality of the figures added to the overall effect of the collective. A case of unity enhancing individuality rather than effacing it. A room of tiny clay figures each sculpted by a member of the public, with eyes and mouth made by poking holes with a pencil – something we have all done with plasticine – created an epic effect.
I’m not a big fan of conceptual art – I genuinely think most of it is rubbish, self-indulgent introversion or shocking for the sake of it, Tracey Emin and her unmade bed, Damien Hurst and his talentless productions earning millions, leave me cold.
The whole structure and ethos of galleries are that we the public should go and appreciate the art, that they the experts have deemed ‘worthy’. While the street artist Banksy and Antony Gormley search out alternatives to the gallery, they have a genuine relationship and interaction with normal people helping us to reflect on our time and place within the wider world.
I hope my writing does the same.
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