ANTONY GORMLEY ON THE ALDEBURGH SKYLINE
Sir Antony Gormley is perhaps Britain’s most cherished sculptor. His sculptures have become part of the fabric of our landscape, from the Angel of the North watching the world from above, to the figures standing in the sand on Crosby beach. In May 2015, a new sculpture by the Turner Prize winner was unveiled at Martello Tower in Aldeburgh as part of LAND, a series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Landmark Trust.
Gormley's scuplture was inspired by its location on top of Martello Tower Aldeburgh
Photo (c) Landmark Trust
Photo (c) Landmark Trust
Since it was founded in 1965, the Landmark Trust has been saving historic buildings on the brink of decay. Thanks to them, follies, towers, forts, pavilions and houses that would otherwise crumble away – taking with them passages and pages of human history – become landmarks to be admired and enjoyed. Naturally, 50 years of this work is something worth celebrating.
The Landmark Trust commissioned Antony Gormley to create a series of sculptures to mark the anniversary, which would be placed across the UK. Of the five places he chose, one is inland in Warwickshire and four are on the coast, marking points on the compass: Saddell Beach on the Mull of Kintyre, facing east; Clavell Tower on the Dorset coast, facing south; Devil’s Limekiln in Lundy, facing west; and the Martello Tower in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, facing north.
As Gormley would say, the Martello Tower in Aldeburgh is a potent place for contemplation. It stands on Aldeburgh’s pebble beach, quatrefoil in shape, tall and imposing. It was the largest of the fortresses built along the British coast in 1812 to keep Napoleon’s army at bay, and still now it retains the sense of isolation that only an outpost can: the wind howls around it, the sea crashes against its walls, or laps at the pebbles below. The Landmark Trust have restored the fort, creating an extraordinary home inside that can be rented, promising an unforgettable holiday (you can also rent Martello Tower Y, 26 miles south of Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast).
Atop the battlements of the Martello Tower, Gormley has placed his sculpture: a figure made of iron, arms folded, defiantly looking north towards Aldeburgh and the sea. The intention is to make you think: about our relationship with the sea, our industrial history, our identity as an island nation, our nature and our future as a species on this great blue planet.
“Art is not about being the dumb recipient but about participation and engagement and co-production.”
Photo (c) Amanda Slater
Photo (c) Amanda Slater
The sculpture will be in place until May 2016, and over the course of the summer you yourself can participate and become part of the artwork. From the Aldeburgh Beach Lookout, the gallery run by Caroline Wiseman, you are invited to walk up the beach towards the Martello Tower to look at the sculpture. Choose a pebble, think about life, and write a short message on it. The pebble will then become part of ‘Pebble Homage,’ an installation leading from the Aldeburgh Beach Lookout to the sea. Afterwards, they will be scattered across the beach, and your message will become part of the landscape, to be stumbled upon by others and provoke moments of contemplation.
As Gormley himself said, "Art is not about being the dumb recipient but about participation and engagement and co-production."
WHAT TO DO IN ALDEBURGH
While you’re in Aldeburgh, we recommend attending a concert at Aldeburgh Music, one of the world’s greatest music centres, created by composer Benjamin Britten. The life and work of Britten can be seen in intimate detail at The Red House in Aldeburgh, the home he shared with tenor Peter Pears. As well as being a very musical town, Aldeburgh is a fab place for foodies: the famous Aldeburgh Fish and Chip Shop serves some of the best fish and chips in the country, and always has a queue round the block; fine dining can be enjoyed at The White Lion and The Brudenell Hotel; and in nearby Orford you can find incredibly fresh oysters at the Butley Orford Oysterage.
Aldeburgh is situated within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, so if you’re a keen walker or naturalist you’ll love exploring nearby places like Dunwich Heath, Westleton Heath, RSPB Havergate Island and RSPB Minsmere.
There’s also plenty to do for kids in the Aldeburgh area, such as canoeing and paddle-boarding up the River Alde with Iken Canoe and Kayak Hire. Nearby Thorpeness is a paradise for families, with a Peter Pan inspired boating lake, golf course and eclectic bric-a-brac emporium. Further north in Southwold you can have a memorable family day playing Tim Hunkin’s crazy arcade games on Southwold Pier, body-boarding in the sea, and eating ice-creams on the beach.