A Celebration of Man and Iron
Renowned international artist, Antony Gormley OBE, has made large number of art installations and his Angel of the North, located in Gateshead in the North of England is famous around the world. Many of his artworks involve the human body, generally his own body, moulded in plaster and then cast in iron. At a recent presentation to the West Midlands, Coventry and Birmingham Branch of ICME, Antony described the inspirations that have led him to want to celebrate both the human body and also the practical and engineering skills that have enabled him to bring his ideas into being. As he says, ‘the skill pool’ (required for ship building and foundry work) ‘takes decades to build up and days to be dispersed’ when businesses are closed, something that we as foundrymen are all too aware of.
Iron as a material has frequently been used by Gormley, such as in ‘Iron: Man’ in Birmingham and ‘Event Horizon’ and he has been keen to work with foundries, including J & J Siddons and Durham Foundry (Sheffield) Ltd in the UK. ‘A material that persists and connects us to the planet’ is how Gormley describes the metal. He is also highly appreciative of the skilled engineers with whom he has worked who have helped him realise his projects, however ambitious.
Always determined that his art works should be accessible, not restricted to art galleries and formal places, many of Antony’s installations are in outdoor locations such as on Formby beach in Lancashire, UK, the site for Another Place, in which more than 100 cast iron figures gaze out to sea. Antony explained that the art work’ is about looking, not about being looked at. It is a comment on the fact that we, as humans, are always looking for something more; the grass greener?’
‘Art’, he says, ‘is a way of expressing the complexity and the joy of being alive’.