detail from 'Another Place' by Anthony Gormley, Crosby. Photograph by Stephen Riley, 2015
I’ve been writing recently about where to place my creative impulses whilst I am temporarily without a painting studio. One outlet has been photography. Another way of engaging with art in these circumstances is to look at other people’s work. It's not as good as 'doing', but it beats total estrangement.
Today, I have had an enjoyable time looking at various studios and galleries which are taking part in Somerset Art Weeks, here in south west England. The ones I have looked at are close to home, in the Bruton area. The event, overall, stretches out right across the county and features many artists’ work. Amongst places visited today were Shave Farm, Shepton Montague Village Hall and Castle Cary Market House.
The image I have posted here is not from today, but it is from a moment when these two things came together: someone else’s work; my photography.
This is an Antony Gormley sculpture on the beach (and sometimes under the sea - when the tide comes in), at Crosby in Lancashire. It is one of about 100 life-size cast iron sculptures of the human figure (cast from Gormley himself), which form an installation called ‘Another Place’. I went there a few months ago and posted an image and blog at the time. Naturally, I took scores of photographs, and this is another from the day.
Of course, in taking photographs of another artist’s work, the issue of copyright arises. It would not have been appropriate to photograph in the galleries I visited today. However, I am assuming that, in making this a public
sculpture, Mr Gormley is inviting people to go along and respond in a way appropriate to something which is 'public', and that response, in this day and age, is bound to include the taking of photographs. Indeed, when I was there, coaches from across the country disgorged and reconsumed hundreds of day-trippers, who swarmed onto the beach, snapped the sculptures and each other, before chugging off to the next port of call on their cultural tour: probably Albert Dock in Liverpool. Possibly, also, when an artist reaches the level of fame that Gormley has, his publicly-located works become landmarks and, in a sense, public property. And this 'invites' people to create 'secondary' works of art, like paintings, drawings and photographs. And of course there is nothing new in this: fine art training of the past involved careful study and rendition of classical sculptures.
So, back to that beach: the combination of windswept sands, human forms gazing out to sea and the growth and decay gradually accumulating on the figures create a sense of romantic desolation. Nineteenth-century poets and painters would have loved it. It is also a situation where, arguably, it is hard to take a bad photograph. If you’ve caught what you’ve seen, you’ve probably got something pretty good.