Domain Field and the Chickenwire Farrier / by Graham Dew

There can be very few people in this country who are not aware of or have not seen the sculptures of Antony Gormley. From the Angel of the North, the beach figures at Crosby Beach to the Sound II in the crypt of Winchester Cathedral, his work is part of the establishment. In the same way as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore were a generation before, his work is brought by local authorities and large corporation to create a wide ranging series of landmark sculptures.

In 2003 he created a wonderful series of figures made up of many small ‘sticks’ of stainless steel. These started life as negative casts of real people, which were then only partially filled with these small pieces of metal. Only the end tips of these metal pieces coincided with the true surface of the subject. This series of statues was known as ‘Domain Field’ and was originally displayed at the then-new Baltic art gallery in Newcastle. After the Baltic exhibition, a smaller subset of some two dozen statues travelled south to be displayed in the Great Hall in my home town of Winchester, which is where I took my young family to see the works.

We went late on a rather gloomy winter’s afternoon and had a lot of fun walking around the figures who seemed to come alive in the spot lighting. More alarmingly, one of them started to shake and reverberate when my then little children could not resist giving one statue a whack to see what would happen! After a few anxious seconds while the statue teetered on its heels and toes, it regained its composure whilst I took a firmer grip on little hands. The appeal of these statues was the way in which an external surface could be interpreted from essentially a collection of points, how a human form could be described by the by the end points of a stack of sticks.

This past weekend we visited the Weyhill Hawk Conservancy near Andover. It’s been several years since we last visited and a lot has been done to move from a charming but a bit ramshackle place, to the charming, well run attraction that it now is. I’d recommend a visit for anyone in the area or who has an interest in nature. The flying displays are particularly well done.

In amongst all the large cages that protect and house the birds, there is currently a small sculpture trail, the most impressive of which was this sculpture of a farrier made out of chicken wire. Ok, it’s not a Gormley, but it was done well, with a similar visual and special experience to a domain field statue. Instead of points defining a surface, we had a series of line. Instead of welded stainless steel bars, we had bent and twisted chicken wire. And instead of being the creation of an internationally renowned artist, the farrier sculpture was the fruits of a student's ‘A’ level art project. It is unlikely that this artist will have a career that is even one hundredth of Gormley’s. But at least they will have knowledge that they have created a small work of art that entertained many thousands of people, which is no bad thing.