Saturday, 29 September 2012

Watching the Tide in Another Place

Feeling a little lack lustre at the laptop, I braved the rain and headed out today. Crosby beach is one of my favourite places. I find the Antony Gormley installation here, Another Place, fascinating.

 Originally the iron figures that stand staring out into the Irish sea were only supposed to be in place for a short period, but local people campaigned to keep them permanently on the beach.

Some of the figures appear to be sinking into the sand, others ride up out of it on their little pedestals, where the contours of the beach have altered over time.

This a place where metaphors seem to come easily. There is something redolent about the figures. The manner in which they just stand gazing.

I find sea landscapes evocative. The way the elements turn all that stand in their way vulnerable. The sun, sea, wind and salt minerals bash the hell out of everything, taking it all right back to its reality. It destroys all that is superficial, all that can't withstand it, so what is left is something hardy; imperfectly honest. You can see this in the weathered iron men. There is something grotesquely beautiful in the pocked rough-smooth of the ironwork. The tones and textures of the metal.

 Sometimes, at a distance, it is hard to tell human from iron man.

 There's something of the Kuleshov Effect about the figures. A whole spectrum of emotions and perspectives can be projected onto them. I find it incredible how specifically emotive their neutral, naive posture can become.

What are they looking at? who, or what, are they waiting for? Why are they each on their own? What effect would be created by positioning them differently - in pairs or groups or facing a different way? If they were turned around, would they appear to be positively looking at Crosby dunes and town, or negatively turning their backs on the sea? Would it seem like they had just emerged from the water?

The figures appear and then disappear under the receding and encroaching tides. They stand ankle, knee, thigh, waist, shoulder... deep in the water, unmoved by the danger that surrounds them. Obliviously lost in their meditation. Or brave in the face of it. I would love to see them under the water, to see if they look different in an alien element. A bit like Jason De Caires Taylor underwater sculptures.

 And as wistful as they can appear, if you put a bit of knitting around their ankles, they can even look mildly embarrassed, like they lost their drawers and now don't know whether to pretend it isn't happening, whilst giving a small embarrassed smile.

Or did he drop them on purpose?
There is always the danger when you take small children to the beach of what they will find and pick up that's been washed up on the tide. Tampon applicators, used condoms... and while I wish there was no rubbish to wash up on the tide line, I still find it morbidly fascinating. This flotsam of natural, sea creature remains, shells, weed all tangled up, wood bleached and rounded by its long journey, rubbing up next to the raw human rubbish of plastic caps, containers, unidentifiable components that all have the same water beaten look. There is something indiscriminate about it. Sometimes it is hard to tell which bits are designed by humans or the sea. 


  1. Lovely post. I, too, find them fascinating, though I'm not usually very good at understanding art I agree with you - there are so many ways you could look at these figures you feel genuinely involved through having a strong own emotional response. Is that what art's supposed to do? I don't find that very often.

    1. Thanks, Clare. Yes - the iron men are so evocative, I love them!

      My friend and I recently visited the Turner prize exhibition. It was hilarious!! I'm not sure our art appreciation was really appreciated... I drew a cartoon of our experiences, perhaps I should post it here!! I love viewing art - in lots of different formats, but if it's really obscure stuff I like to be nudged by the artist, so I can get a grasp on what their thought processes are. If I don't 'get' it, I turn into a teenager on a school trip, giggling inappropriately and saying stupid things. Some art is baffling, isn't it? I think this is what I adore and find incredibly frustrating in equal measures.