5 days in the life of ...

The sculptor of 'The Angel of the North' sees his work near completion
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
MONDAY: Another trip to the engineering firm in Hartlepool where the Angel has been built. I've been coming up from London every week for about six months, and for the last month and a half there have been 30 people working on it 24 hours a day seven days a week. They've done a fantastic job. I arrived by train at Darlington at 1 o'clock and drove through the extraordinary petro-chemical landscape of Teesside. When I got there the Angel was in one piece, but it was hard to recognise it as a sculpture with it lying on the floor. It was like seeing a giraffe lying down. The challenge today was to get the wings angled forwards about three degrees, to give the Angel an embracing quality. That's important because it animates the sculpture, but it was proving difficult in engineering terms. There are 3,000 separate pieces of metal - putting it all together has been a bit like building a giant balsawood model plane.

TUESDAY: I was back in my studio in Peckham in south London where I've worked for 10 years. I start about 9.15am and finish about 7pm. Then it's back to Camden where I live with my wife and three children. The design of the Angel was finished over a year ago and I've been working on a lot of other things since. I had a show that opened in Cologne a couple of weeks ago, and I've been preoccupied with that. Some people from a museum in the south of France came to visit. They wanted to put on a show of my work in the summer, but I didn't think it gave us enough time or that the venue was quite right.

WEDNESDAY: At the moment I'm working on a sculpture that's a series of connected figures with the heads disappearing into each other. It's like a molecular structure. All my work is based on casts of my own body. I have two assistants who do the moulding while I stand still for a couple of hours in a certain position. It's a very intensive process. I wrap myself entirely in clingfilm, and am then covered with plaster and scrim - a mixture of loose-weave cloth and bandages. I'm not a fitness freak but I suppose you have to be quite fit to work like this. Maintaining a position in space without movement is just as much a use of the muscles as running about is. It's rather like doing yoga. A friend of mine came over from New York and I took him for lunch at my favourite pub in Coldharbour Lane.

THURSDAY: I'm working on a new piece for a museum in Sweden. In the early 1990s I made a number of expanded body forms, trying to describe the energy fields that surround the body. Now I'm trying to describe the core of the body - the result is a cross between Giacometti and an alien. The figures look like stick men, but the longer you look at them the more you see strange vulnerabilities. There'll be three of them standing in a beech forest in southern Sweden. When I finished I went to see a show by Marc Quinn at a gallery in south London.

FRIDAY: My last day in the studio before going back up to the North-east for the unveiling of the Angel. Except there won't actually be a veil because we thought something as big as that might blow away in the wind. It's going to be a very big day, very nerve-wracking. It's a gamble making an object that weighs 208 tons. I'm hoping it'll really belong and that it will do what it is supposed to, which principally is to interact with the people in the 33 million cars that will drive past it every year. I won't know whether it will work until it's actually up. I'm hoping it will be as exciting as the birth of my first son, but I'm not sure sculpture can ever be as exciting as life.

Anthony Gormley's 'The Angel of the North' was due to be erected alongside the A1 at Gateshead at about 7.30 this morning. Lord Gowrie will preside over its official opening at 11 o'clock tomorrow morning.