Antony Gormley in Edinburgh
6 Times is a sculpture project running through the heart of Edinburgh.
Six life-size figures mark out a watery walking route from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art to the sea. Each figure, the familiar Gormley shape and gaze, looks in a slightly different direction en route. The first and last figures of the sequence are compelled to gaze out towards the sea. They may be cast in iron and appear stoical, but they also seem vulnerable, or perhaps stuck or wishing to move forwards to the sea – perhaps back to the sea? All are eroding in different ways from the elements and environment they are placed in – just like humans.
The artist questions how humans fit into the urban environment and adapt to the natural landscape. Our interaction with human forms, the space around them, nature and weather is constantly shown to us through these sculptures and perhaps we read them in different ways based on our own experience. This might be what makes them popular. Are they happy, frightened, excited, bored, lost, found? It is open to any interpretation.
“I’ve never been interested in making statues, but I have been interested in asking what is the nature of the space a human being inhabits. What I try to show is the space where the body was, not to represent the body itself.” – Antony Gormley
The figures first appeared in Edinburgh in the summer of 2010, commissioned by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art for £380,000 and with support from the Art Fund Gulbenkian Museum of the Year Award 2004, Clare Enders and The Henry Moore Foundation and as part of the National Gallery of Scotland collection.
What happened to the figures?
Four out of the six figures are in storage indefinitely. The Water of Leith figures were pushed over by high tides in summer 2010 after heavy rainfall. They are hinged at the base to collapse and secure them during bad weather and high tides but have shown engineering problems with the hinges constantly toppling the sculpture which are then unable to stand up again as they should when the water pressure falls.
With the river now awaiting a flood prevention scheme, the figures are considered too expensive to maintain in the water and are currently in safe storage until an alternative solution can be found. Only the first and last still remain. Talks continue about how to reinstate the four missing figures again to the Water of Leith.
“Every landscape has a hidden social dimension to do with both its natural usage and the politics of territory. And I do like the idea that attempting to ask questions about the place of art in our lives reveals these complex human and social matrices.” – Antony Gormley
Antony Gormley’s 6 Times
A full-bodied cast iron sculpture in a likeness of the artist is half-buried up to the waist in tarmac and facing the distant sea. He is situated outside the entrance to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Belford Road.
2.Bells Mills Man
Situated in the water, close to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
Situated in the water near the bridge at Deanhaugh Street, Stockbridge.
Situated in the water near St Mark’s Park.
Looking to the right.
Situated in the water near Newhaven Road.
Looking to the left.
6.Leith Docks Man
Situated at the end of an abandoned, ruined pier at Western Harbour near Ocean Terminal, gazing out to the point where the river meets the sea, at the mouth of the harbour. It can be seen by cruise ship passengers coming in to Edinburgh to dock. Both the pier and the cast iron figure are altered by the elements. Alone. Anonymous. Determined and resolute despite a load of bird crap dumped over his head over time. Tethered man, tethered boat, man versus boat.
Water of Leith
The Water of Leith river runs from the Pentland Hills then north through Edinburgh to the Firth of Forth. Once lined by mills powered by the water, humans have reacted to its environment for centuries. The river has incorporated the natural and manmade for centuries and its water once was deemed to have healing benefits.
A riverside path runs from Balerno to Leith waterfront and is maintained by Water of Leith Conservation Trust. It is a designated Urban Wildlife Site with herons, mallards, swans, bats, tree creepers and owls spotted along the route. The walk along the Water of Leith is a 12 miles (20km) stretch and a great way of walking across the city without negotiating the city traffic.
Gormley is best known for his Angel of the North sculpture in Gateshead and Another Place at Crosby Beach in Merseyside. Some other Gormley projects are located in Stavanger, Cuxhaven, Vorarlberg and New York.