Balancing on the interface between land and water, a 26-metre tall squatting man looks out over the Markermeer from the groyne in Lelystad. In the open landscape this human figure is a landmark in the Flevopolder. With Exposure, the British artist Antony Gormley (Hampstead, Great Britain, 1950) made the sixth Land Art project in Flevoland since the realization of Robert Morris' Observatory in 1977.
Fascinated by the manipulability of the new polder, Gormley found inspiration for this gigantic artwork in the virgin landscape. The ability to create something without references to the location's history is what makes Flevoland a special spot for him. (1) Driving through the polder, Gormley discovered a landscape with a rythm of straight lines from canals, fields and windmills. The network of power pylons, spread out over Flevoland like a nervous system, form the source of inspiration for Exposure. (2) Using these steel skeletons as a point of departure, he created an open structure for his sculpture of the squatting man. When the weather is sunny the blue sky is reflected in the steel rods, and at sunrise and sunset the sculpture becomes a dark silhouette against the illuminating horizon.
The complex construction of almost two thousand unique steel elements could only be created thanks to the developments in modern computer technology. (3) Just like the land reclamation from the former Zuiderzee and the creation of the polder, Exposure is the product of a continuous discussion between design and technology. The engineers took the size of the artwork, Flevoland's weather conditions as well as the artist's wishes into account. Gormley considered it a challenge to create an artwork that can be defined as a clear shape from a distance yet entices to be visited. From afar, Exposure can be recognized as a transparent human figure. The closer you get to the work, the more abstract and impressive this complex example of engineering becomes. Approaching Exposure, it seems to open up like a cloud or spider web. Looking up from beneath the enormous construction the only thing you can still see are steel columns, where the birds seem to fly right through.
It is the first time within Flevoland's Land Art tradition that a figurative sculpture comments on the polder landscape without making use of elements from nature. Also, this work is uniquely located sitting on the interface between land and water in an urban setting. (5) Exposure looks out over the Markermeer with the polder behind it and with the ever-changing silhouette of Lelystad's urban landscape in the background.
Antony Gormley enjoys international fame for his large-scale art projects in urban and natural surroundings. In 1998, Gormley constructed a gigantic sculpture in the form of a steel angel in the impoverished industrial area of Gasteshead in northern England: Angel of the North (1998). The industry was on its last legs and the angel was meant to be an icon for the area's renewed strength. (5) From the top of a hill, the angel looks out over the valley. The 20-metre tall artwork with a wingspan of 54 metres has been declared one of England's most imporant landmarks.
Gormley often takes the most basic art form as a point of departure for his work: depicting man. Generally, he uses his own body as an example. With his sculptures, he creates an awareness of the place that man takes in (literally) and in doing so he changes the way we look at space and surroundings.
Location: breakwater at the beginning of Houtribdijk (N302), Lelystad
Materials: galvanized steel, concrete
Dimensions: height 26 metres
Proprietor and maintenance: the Municipality of Lelystad, Kunstwacht
Proprietor of the breakwater: Rijkswaterstaat
(1) Margriet van Seumeren, Een reus zonder naam (A giant wihtout a name), Gooi en Eemlander, 11 October 2008.
(2) Antony Gormley, Kunstland (Art Land), Avro's KunstUur, May 2009.
(3) Project plan for the Municipality of Lelystad by Antony Gormley. Unpublished.
(4) Joost van Hezewijk interviewd by Jaap Evert Abrahamse, p. 342 in: Martine Spanjers & Annick Kleizen (ed.), (2007), De Collectie Flevoland (The Flevoland Collection), Museum De Paviljoens.
(5) Ibid., p.35.