Angels typically fly or float in the air, but not this one. The Angel of the North is firmly rooted in the ground, in recognition of the miners who once toiled beneath this spot.
Whether you arrive in Newcastle or Gateshead by road or by rail, you’ll be greeted as you approach the city by this amazing figure of an angel with outstretched arms, who appears to be watching over travellers. He welcomes visitors and home-coming Geordies; when we see the Angel on our regular trips to Newcastle we know we’re nearly there.
The Angel of the North was the work of Anthony Gormley – indeed, is perhaps his best-known work. It is said to be the largest angel sculpture in the world. It is also one of the most viewed pieces of art in the world; its location so close to the busy A1, and on the London-Edinburgh mainline train route, means that it is seen by more than one person a second, 90,000 people a day or 33 million every year!
The Angel is on a grand scale. At 20 metres tall (65 feet) it is more than the height of four double decker buses, while its wings are 54 metres wide (175 feet) – almost as long as the wings of a Jumbo jet. It is made of a special weather resistant steel which contains copper. The surface oxidises to form a patina, which mellows with age to a rich red brown colour. There is enough steel in it to make 16 double-decker buses or four Chieftain tanks.
Gormley on the Angel
The site is that of a former colliery. Gormley has talked about the links between the sculpture and the industrial heritage of the region:
‘The hilltop site is important and has the feeling of being a megalithic mound. When you think of the mining that was done underneath the site, there is a poetic resonance. Men worked beneath the surface in the dark. Now in the light, there is a celebration of this industry.’
He also explained his choice of an angel as subject matter:
‘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.’
(quotes taken from Gateshead Council’s website)
There are those that don’t like the Angel (one of my husband’s aunts among them, who considers it an ugly monstrosity) but it has become part of the fabric of the region and I for one am among the many who really love it.
And what could be a more fitting subject for a December Lens-Artists Photo Challenge of ‘Subjects that begin with the letter A’ than an angel?
I visit Newcastle several times a year and pass the Angel every time. My photos were taken in 2015 when we stopped by for a closer look