Landmark Trust celebrates 50th anniversary with Gormley sculptures
Five iron men have assembled – yes, there is something of a comic book reference in that line – at five Landmark Trust sites across the UK. There they will remain, in their relative solitude, for 12 long months, quietly contemplating what inanimate objects can only dream of.
These full-size standing sculptures are courtesy of British artist Antony Gormley, famous for his iconic public works of art, including the Angel of the North and Another Place. He was commissioned by the charity to develop them to mark its 50th anniversary and collectively they are known as Land.
Each sculpture is site-specific. They are situated on Saddell Bay, Mull of Kintyre, Argyll and Bute; at South West Point, Lundy, Bristol Channel, Devon; at Clavell Tower, Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset; at Martello Tower, Aldeburgh, Suffolk; and at Lengthsman’s Cottage, Lowsonford, Warwickshire.
Explaining the concept of Land, Dr Anna Keay, director of the Landmark Trust, said that the charity was looking for a new way to celebrate half a century of thoughtful and needed conservation. The “eloquence” of Gormley seemed like the perfect response and his vision of “the relationship between people, places and time” is rather special.
“Just as eighteenth century political artists represented Britain as a person, so Land seems to me to describe an imaginative human geography in which water forms both the skin and the arteries of our island body,” she went on to say.
“We hope it will pique the curiosity and imagination of those who encounter it, and provoke conversations about our relationships with our landscape, our past and one another.”
Describing his approach, Gormley states that he conceived of the works as distant extensions of the buildings saved by the trust, with isolation a key reference point in their conceptualisation.
He elaborates by discussing “human history and power relations” and the mesmeric way that our species generates habitats in so many varied ways. It’s about “being in the world but not exactly of it” – the awesome length of time and the epic size of space – and triggering contemplation.
“It was important to find sites in which the work would not simply become an unnecessary addition but where it could be a catalyst and take on a richer or deeper engagement with the site,” he continued. “Each of the five works made for this commission tries to identify a human space in space at large. Where do we live primarily?”
The answer he gives is our own body and thus, to occupy, a space is to be human. It’s about existing as only we can understand it (beyond metaphysics). As Gormley elucidates, we are always living “within something”, the first being one’s body (and skin), then clothing, shelter, villages, towns and cities, earth, the solar system and, well, whatever lies beyond space.
He adds: “The works are made of iron: the material that gives this planet its magnetic field, its density and that maintains it in its particular course through the heavens.”
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