I have long been a fan of both the Landmark Trust and the artist Antony Gormley, so I was thrilled to learn that to mark Landmark’s 50th anniversary an art installation by Antony Gormley, consisting of five life-size statues cast in iron, would be installed near to Landmark properties. The sites for the statues, collectively called LAND, were to be positioned in the North, South, West, East and centre of the UK so that as many people could visit them as possible. LAND was planned as a temporary installation, running for a year from 16 May 2015.
The opening weekend kicked off a year of celebration for the Landmark Trust, and as I was free that weekend I decided to go and see the one in the centre of the UK, in Warwickshire. Having visited this first statue, I wondered whether it might be at all possible to visit all five over the year, but ruled this out as two of the statues are pretty difficult to get to – the one on Lundy and the Scottish one which was on the Kintyre peninusla. But when I discovered that a holiday I had booked with friends in Dorset was near Kimmeridge Bay, where the South statue was situated, and after visiting Lundy for a day trip on a weekend in June 2015, I began to think that it might just be possible to visit all five. Fortunately I was able to rope some friends into my Gormley-hunting experience, (including one friend who has visited all five with me) and so I booked a weekend in the Martello Tower, Aldeburgh in early March 2016 and another weekend in Saddell at the beginning of May 2016. The latter was a bit of a worry – we couldn’t find a convenient time to fit in a weekend in Scotland until the beginning of May, and I was unsure when they were going to remove the statues which were always planned as a temporary exhibit, but I took the risk thinking that even if the statue had been removed by then we would just have a lovely short break in a beautiful spot. Fortunately the risk paid off, and the statue was still in situ, so I was able to see all five.
The statues are similar and yet also quite different, but they all perfectly reflect their surroundings. The life-like figures appear to be gazing out to sea, or peering into the ground, some with arms folded, and the one on Lundy appearing to have a rucksack on his back. Four of them are very similar in size and shape but the Lundy one is more boxy and abstract, and doesn’t look as if it is part of the same series. I believe that they have individual names – the Lundy one is officially named DAZE IV for example, and the Saddell one is called GRIP, although we named the Aldeburgh one Cliff, as it was often used as a perch for seagulls (as in the joke Q: What do you call a bloke with a seagull on his head? A: Cliff). Gormley has said that he wanted people to interact with them; to touch them, climb on them, photograph them. I found an irresistible urge to imitate the figures’ pose; and standing at the first one watching for a while I noticed a lot of people doing the same.
I’ve no idea what is going to happen to the statues now; I understand that they are being sold by the White Cube Gallery on behalf of the artist. They may well appear next – possibly individually, possibly together – in a museum in New York or Japan or somewhere else. The fact that they have different names, and the Lundy one being so different, makes me think that they are more likely to be split up and sold individually. I can’t help but feel sad about this; it seems such a shame to remove them from the locations that they were designed for – it is almost as if the location and the view are an integral part of the statue and to separate the location and the statue will diminish the statues. I particularly feel this about the Lundy one, and think it’s a great addition to a beautiful island that I have come to know and love, and I wish it would stay and become a permanent feature of the island. I went to a talk by Antony Gormley in which he said that he liked the fact that they were temporary; it made them more ephemeral and seemingly like part of nature that always changes. I’m just very glad that I managed to visit all five of them in the original locations they were designed for. I wonder how many other people have managed to see the full set that make up the LAND installation and suspect it may be a fairly small number.
Lengthsman’s Cottage, Lowsonford, Warwickshire
This statue is situated opposite Lengthsman’s Cottage, on the Stratford-on-Avon canal. In incredibly peaceful surroundings the figure appears to be gazing into the lock, as though something has caught his attention.
Clavell Tower, Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset
The Kimmeridge Bay statue is situated right in the water, gazing out to sea, so that at high tide the statue is partially submerged under water. The Landmark Trust property of Clavell Tower sits high up on the cliff overlooking the bay. Sadly, stormy seas at Christmas 2015 resulted in the statue toppling over and had to be removed.
Lundy Island, Bristol Channel
Perhaps the most inaccessible of the statues, as to get to Lundy you first need to get to Devon and then take either a 2-hour boat journey in the summer months, or go by helicopter in the winter. The whole island is managed by the Landmark Trust, with a number of properties that you can stay at, or you can go on a day trip. I went on a day trip specially to see the statue, which is on the Southwest corner of the island. Unfortunately, the day I had booked was not great, weather wise, although it does add to the atmosphere as the statue appears to be peering out through the sea mist. This was one of the most controversial statues, as I was aware of many people who love Lundy who thought that it would spoil the natural beauty of the island which is highly regarded for its wildlife and nature. Personally I think it is a fantastic addition to the island, and adds to the wild granite beauty of Lundy rather than detracts from it.
Martello Tower, Aldeburgh, Suffolk
The Martello Tower Gormley is the only one that is actually situated on top of a Landmark Trust property, rather than just nearby. This does mean that it is also difficult to get up close and personal to it as even if you do book to stay in the tower as it is out on a ledge on top of the tower. I stayed for a weekend and it was fantastic to have our own personal Gormley keeping guard and a lookout on the top of the tower, even though with its arms crossed it looked grumpy.
Saddell Bay, Kintyre, Argyll and Bute, Scotland
The Saddell statue, officially called GRIP, is situated in Saddell Bay, on the Kintyre peninsula, looking enigmatically out to see across the Kilbrannan Sound towards the isle of Arran. The Landmark Trust own the whole Saddell estate, with a number of properties including Saddell castle, the grand Saddell House and some smaller cottages, so that 40 people in total can stay on the estate across the different buildings. We stayed in Ferryman’s Cottage, but even if not staying at a property, members of the public can park at the top of the estate and walk down to see the statue. However, it is pretty isolated, and takes a long time to drive to the area from Glasgow or Edinburgh so in reality most people seeing the statue would be staying on the estate.
GRIP stands on a rock at low tide, and at high tide is partially submerged. With the waves crashing against the statue it is incredibly atmospheric and possibly my favourite of the statues. There was an incredible feeling of peace in Saddell Bay, and the statue seemed to change in different lights, weathers and at different times of the tide. But it is the combination of statue and location that really makes it so atmospheric; and again I can’t help feeling that it won’t be as spectacular and effective when removed from its perfect surroundings.
There is very little time left to see the statues before they are removed, but if you do live near any of them or can manage to make a special trip to see them, I would urge you to do so as they are really very special in situ. The Landmark Trust are having farewell events on the weekend of 14th and 15th May 2016 at the Warwickshire, Aldeburgh and Saddell sites, (details here) and I believe they will all be gone by early June. I will be very sad to see them go.