Last week the tide was right, the weather was (just barely) right, and I felt right enough for the trip, so we made a return visit to Crosby Beach on the Sefton Coast to see how the 'men' in Antony Gormley's unusual outdoor installation ANOTHER PLACE had changed since we last saw it about four years ago, about a two years after they were put in place.
As soon as we arrived on our first visit I knew I wanted to make a painting, not of the whole scene but of just one 'man' in particular that interested me, and I did so in the next few weeks.
If you aren't familiar with Gormley's work, most of it consists of large outdoor sculptures, and I can only urge you to Google him and the many terrific photos of Another Place. It needs about a hundred photos to give you some idea of how fantastic it is at different times of the day and in different weathers.
The work consists of 100 life-size naked iron figures, cast from Gormley's own body, spread over 2 miles of beach, from the sea wall and out to sea for a considerable distance. They all gaze out to sea, and the incoming tide washes over them, covering some of them completely, and then receding to reveal them again.
This is just part of the painting and no, Gormley didn't put the pink vest on him. From the beginning the public have loved these sculptures. They have their photos taken with them, and a tradition has grown up from the beginning of people dressing them in various ways - one year some of them were dressed in Santa Claus clothes at Christmas.
This kind of public interaction really interests me, because my main subject on my art degree (done after retirement) was sculpture, and my final thesis was about public sculpture and the relationship people develop with outside sculptures. So that's why he's wearing the pink vest in the painting, though it is not long enough to 'cover possible' as my mother used to put it.
And he really does have a cute little rear end.
This is the full painting, which measures 40" x 32". Although there are another 99 men, I chose an angle from which he stood alone, where he gave me a feeling of loneliness and a kind of longing for something out beyond the sea. And he hangs in our living room, where he is much loved.
Our first visit to the site was when the men had occupied this section of the coast for just about two years, and the sea and sand had already started having an effect on the iron, as you can see from the painting.
So here are a few photos that show some of the changes the sea has wrought on the statues in the last four years or so.
Seaweed has now started to grow on the bodies, and tiny barnacles are also taking over. The iron is rusting and you can see in the centre image on the right of the collage that the sea has at the moment washed away the sand and the post that is buried deeply in the sand is showing. It was interesting to see that since our last visit the men have had numbers attached to their wrists.
This installation is all about the changes that the sea, the sand and the wind make to the sculptures and that's what makes one want to return to see it. I'm not sure the men look too happy with standing out in the wind, rain and waves for so long.
I can't show you a full frontal photograph because all the men are in the buff, and this is a family blog!
In this photo you can just make out some of the sculpture men standing further out to sea, and beyond them the white wind turbines, also planted in the sea. The turbines arrived after the men. Are they sculpture too?
When we had wandered along the beach a short way - but not out towards the more distant men because it is unsafe to do so - we decided to go in search of coffee.
What a surprise - a real-life Gormley man at the car park (dressed, thank heavens). We had seen him earlier, digging for bait further out towards the sea. He kindly stood momentarily so I could take a photograph of him, and luckily it was just in a suitable position. Just finished the trip off nicely.