Since it’s erection in 1998 Anthony Gormely’s Angel of the North has sparked much debate. It’s imposing 20m high presence on the side of the A1 in Gateshead is impossible not to notice, with it’s rusted plane-like industrial 54 metre wingspan.
The question is, do people still appreciate Gormley’s sculpture or has it become something of an eyesore? Whilst traveling on the train to Scotland I overheard two middle aged women who- incidentally- were merrily munching on some pork pies and swigging on tins of pre-mixed bracardi and coke whilst dismissing, ‘that piece of junk’ and rolling their eyes at Gormley’s Angel.
As a longstanding appreciator of Gormely and his work, my opinion remains split on this piece. Where his installation Another Place on Crosby Beach connects the sculptures to the surrounding environment, presenting an ethereal, peaceful effect encouraging the contemplation of time and the selfThe Angel of the North has no human grace or poise, but stands tall like a past war monument left over from times of hardship and terror. For me it is too menacing to suggest contemplation and reflection, too industrial to be human, and perhaps just a bit too close to the roadside to be understood in context.
Gormley states, “People are always asking why an angel? The only response I can give is that no-one has ever seen one and we need to keep imagining them. The angel has three functions – firstly a historic one to remind us that below this site coal miners worked in the dark for two hundred years, secondly to grasp hold of the future expressing our transition from the industrial to the information age, and lastly to be a focus for our hopes and fears.” –
Perhaps then these women have forgotten their past, and have no fears other than drinking too much bracardi and missing their train stop. Whizzing past on the train or motorway doesn’t allow for a proper glimpse of the sculpture, the image along with it’s message is blurred and confusing in the mind’s eye.
Tellingly upon it’s erection the Sun paper likened Gormley’s Angel to a monumental clanger, and many other tabloid’s were similarly unimpressed by the work. For something that is supposed to inspire the masses, sadly this work doesn’t quite translate.