The Angel of the North monumental sculpture, Gateshead, England.
THE ANGEL LOOKS EVEN BIGGER VIEWED FROM BELOW.
The Angel of the North statue stands proud on a hilltop overlooking the Team valley in Gateshead, England, the statue is viewed by one person every second of the day, making it the most frequently viewed piece of art in the world. Constructed as it is from weathering steel the elements have worked their magic on the immense statue, it’s rusty red hues stand out in stark contrast to the often grey northern skies.
It really can take your breath away when you first see it. On most days crowds of people can be found staring up in awe and wonder at the angel, the sheer size of the statue is mind blowing.
The Angel of the North stands as a 20 metre high monument to the thousands of miners who toiled deep underground in the former colliery beneath its feet and as a testimony to the skills and talent of the men and women who worked on it’s construction.
A BLOT ON THE LANDSCAPE?
Work began on the site in the winter of 1997 and the Angel of the North arrived on site in February the following year. During the night of February 14ththe statue made it’s way towards it final destination under police escort, travelling at just 10 mph. Many people lined the streets to watch it pass and tv crews broadcast the event into homes around the country.
Right from the start the statue provoked very different reactions from people, some loved it, some hated it. Many people consider it to be a blot on the landscape and would love to see it taken down.
IS IT A PLANE OR AN ANGEL?
The Angel of the North was officially opened to the public in June. The statue is comprised of three parts, the main body and the two wings. These parts contain a mix of five elements, a core of hollow steel runs through the body from the base to the head. Sacrificial ribs that help to shape the Angel from the inside. Diaphragms, 50mm thick horizontal plates that support the body and provide a firm fixing place for the huge wings.
External ribs for further support and to help maintain the shape of the body. Skin, 6mm weathering sheet steel cut and folded around the ribs to complete the body form. Only local firms were chosen by Gateshead council to provide the materials and the expertise needed to bring the extraordinary art work to life.
IN THE SHELTER OF THE STATUE.
The foundations of the angel plunge down over 20 metres into the solid rock beneath the mound. One hundred and fifty tons of concrete and over fifty, three metre long bolts were needed to root the Angel to the ground.
It’s unique constructions allows the statue to withstand winds of more than a hundred miles per hour, a necessary feature given it’s location high on a windswept hill. Standing beneath the Angel looking up at it’s outstretched wings, bent forward as they are at a slight angle, it’s easy to believe that it is preparing to take flight. It vibrates constantly as it is buffeted by the chill northerly winds.
The sculptor who created the Angel of the North, Antony Gormley OBE, was born in nineteen fifty, he has exhibited works around the world and is a Turner prize winner. Gormley is the creator of a number of major public works in Japan, America, Norway and Australia as well as numerous locations throughout the United Kingdom. Gormley designed the angel’s wings to angle forward so as to create a feeling of embrace. Standing down the hill beneath the statue that is indeed how it feels, the Angel appears to lean towards you, ready to wrap it’s wings around you and draw you near.
People locally refer to the Angel as the Gateshead flasher, for obvious reasons and I have no doubt mostly with good humour! Whatever feelings the Angel provokes it is an awe inspiring sight and one that should not be missed if you ever find yourself in the north of England. A good thing to remember, if you do plan on visiting the angel, is the fact that there are no facilities at the site. No toilets, nowhere to buy a hot or cold drink, or a bite to eat - nothing. Seems like quite a wasted opportunity to me, some enterprising person should come along and open a cafe, they would make a fortune.
Antoney Gormley talks about his work of art.
WHAT GORMLEY HAS TO SAY ABOUT THE ANGEL.
In the words of the sculptor.
"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 - a sculpture is an evolving thing."