I’ve gone coast to coast, just to contemplate
Joni Mitchell – Blue Motel Room
No sooner had I basked in the Sandsend sunshine than it was time for me to return to Bootle, where the nearest interesting stretch of sand is to be found at Crosby, the beach where Antony Gormley’s work Another Place stands embedded in the sand.
I’ve blogged about this location twice before, but I find the place absolutely compelling and for a variety of reasons.
This is the same stretch of sand that fronts the dunes at Formby, though a few miles further south, and whether due to the sheer expanse of this coast, or the challenges of access here (there’s a walk from the car park that passes a park, play area and leisure lake so there are easier options than the beach) the shoreline never seems to be very busy. Attractive if you enjoy having plenty of space to exercise your dog or its owner.
For others the proximity of the shipping approaching the port of Liverpool provides the interest; the world’s first commercial dock is still one of the UK’s busiest. Add in a backdrop of wind turbines and you have an industrialist’s wet dream.
But for me the Gormley figures are the attraction. One hundred cast iron figures, identical but for an identifying wrist band, stand facing out to sea, but being spread over a two-mile stretch of coastline they are sparse, with no more than three or four ever in your field of vision. Even then the fact that they are at different distances from the water allows perspective to resize them, thus giving them greater individuality. Each of the hundred seems to stand alone, gazing out over the undulations of sand and water and creating a surprising sense of isolation.
The sea too plays a part in giving each an individual feel, decorating them with barnacles, weeds and a patina of corrosion that affects no two in the same way. The sea may also be the culprit for the fact that some of the figures are partly buried in the shifting sands… though there may be another explanation!
Gormley is one of Britain’s leading artists, but his reputation hasn’t been gained through press controversy like some of his contemporaries. Of the three works I’ve come close to (Domain Field and The Angel of the North being the others) he demonstrates an ability to connect with humanity using cold steel. This was my third visit to Another Place. I doubt it will be my last.
A few days after posting this item I came across this programme which describes the history of this artwork and the reactions of the people of the area to their installation… BBC Radio documentary about the artwork