Art You Should Know: The Angel of the North by Sir Antony Gormley

Angel of the North
The Angel of the North, by Sir Antony Gormley,

‘…but [the angels] said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”‘

Completed in 1998, the towering (20m tall) Angel of the North dominates the skyline over the A1 and A167 roads near Gateshead in Tyne and Wear, England, and is instantly recognisable throughout Britain.

It weighs 200 tons, is made of steel mixed with copper to give it its distinctive patina, is anchored on concrete pylons embedded 20m into the ground, and is designed to last for more than a hundred years.

Artist Sir Antony Gormley chose an angel to signify the fact that coal miners had laboured in the dark beneath the hills in the area for two centuries; to represent the transition from the industrial to the information age; and to serve as a focus for our evolving hopes and fears.

In other words, the symbolism is intended to be completely secular, not religious, and yet Gormley has settled upon a figure with thousands of years of history in the Judaic, Christian and Islamic faiths. From Genesis to Revelation, and in the Muslim Quran, Angels are messengers of God, sent to bring good news and dire warnings to humankind. Just as Christians once incorporated elements of both Jewish Passover and pre-Christian spring festivals into their celebration of the Resurrection, so the ideas and images which have lived for centuries in the lives of the faithful continue to be re-imagined and incorporated into our contemporary, secularised world.

Nietzsche said that ‘God is dead’. On Easter Sunday Christians throughout the world celebrate our belief that, though he died, yet he rose again and reigns for ever more. Hallelujah!

How will you your Easter keep?


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