All Weather Hope
This week is the 25th anniversary of the Angel of the North, one of the most impressive pieces of public art ever created in the United Kingdom.
I saw this piece when I last went south to Durham, England. As my friend and I drove on the motorway through Gateshead, it suddenly emerged in view over the tops of the trees - first the head, and then the rust coloured wings stretching out over the cityscape. It is a figure that stands tall and strong on a hilltop. As the artist has commented, the statue is almost never alone because people are always gathering there.
There is a deeper theme under this monumental work, literally because it is built on a mound above an abandoned coal mine. The piece speaks of the industrial power of the north of England with its steel, mining and ship building industries. It endures all seasons due to its formidable structure and durable material of weathering steel and concrete.
The artist, Antony Gormley, said that initially there were many questions raised about this artwork, and even some very vociferous local opposition. Some people thought it would become a laughable object in the north, others thought it looked like some kind of communist monument. Gormley managed to override all the doubters and proceeded to work with engineers to carry out his vision. The piece is now an elemental part of the whole experience of the north of England. A symbol of great strength, hardiness and perseverance.
There is an element of pride one feels in the presence of the angel, and I certainly get a thrill from seeing it every time I travel through Gateshead.
There is another poignant underlying theme. Gormley created the work partly in response to the closure of the mines in the 1980s which had a catastrophic effect on the local economy. Somehow he’s captured the past, present and future and gives hope for a new season. This is the power of art.
You can listen to an interview with the artist, Antony Gormley, on BBC PM, Radio 4, February 15th, 2023. Here is the link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001j46v
The interview with Evan Davis begins at 23:19.
I’m taking part in a writing challenge for 21 days where I am writing on the theme of 'seasons', encouraged by a new prompt each day. I won't post here every day, but may include some pieces from this challenge once in a while. Do subscribe and follow along if you would like to read more. Just click the tab on the top right of this page. X