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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, May 12, 2004
    A place where a thought might grow
    They gaze at you, don't they, the characters in Antony Gormley's Field. You go to Tate Liverpool to look at a work of art, and what happens - instead, it looks at you.

    The eyes are imploring. Thirty-five thousand pairs of eyes waiting for something from you. A word in season, a prayer, a declaration.

    You're struck by their vulnerability, their neediness. Your feet are only inches away from them - one kick and you could scatter the front few rows. But the rest of them would still stand silently watching, waiting, wanting... you.

    I love them. The Field. I'm humoured by them and I'm unnerved by them. Gormley's work shimmers with religious references - and Field calls up the Day of Judgement. The mass of helpless humanity, waiting for judgement. And you standing over them.....

    But who is being judged here? This is not a new thought, for many have written about Gormley's Field in this way. Caoimhin Mac Giolla Leith says of these frail figures,

    "They return our gaze with a mixture of quizzicality and supplication, as if they were asking us to account for ourselves, dumbly calling us to task for some nameless act we can no longer remember."

    His piece in the Oriel Mostyn book Field for the British Isles is titled "A Place Where a Thought Might Grow", from a Derek Mahon poem, words which resonate with the experience of standing facing the gaze of Gormley's Field:

    They are begging us, you see, in their wordless way,
    To do something, to speak on their behalf
    Or at least not to close the door again.
    Lost people of Treblinka and Pompeii!
    'Save us, save us,' they seem to say,
    'Let not the god abandon us
    Who have come so far in darkness and in pain.
    We too had our lives to live.
    You with your light meter and relaxed itinerary,
    Let not our naive labours have been in vain!'