Antony Gormley’s recent installation of six figures in the Water of Leith may not have been the most shouted about or obvious piece of public art on display during the summer festivities, but I for one was enticed away from the bustle of the Fringe by the promise of a peaceful stroll by the water to meet Gormley’s men. However, I must admit now – rather shamefully – that I only managed to find five of the six figures. I had assumed that the installation would be a rather high profile affair but in fact, other than a small map on the National Galleries website, visitors are left to find their own way down to Leith from the National Gallery of Modern Art. There is no indication of the figures’ location: I stumbled upon men number 2 and 3 after questioning whether perhaps a particularly gnarled and human-like old tree in the water was one of the sculptures. This all lends the installation a sense of quiet individual contemplation; the figures are alone, and gaze down the water towards Leith as if they are slowly following natural progression of the water down to the dock. Gormley says that he sees the Water of Leith as a “living bloodstream” and this is certainly given shape in the vitality of his figures and their neat procession. Though there is sometimes a certain melancholy about Gormley’s work – his New York rooftop statues were mistaken for suicide attempts – the 6 Times figures have an air of peaceful stillness. The Water of Leith is something of a haven from the commotion of the city, and the tranquillity of the figures embodies this. Subtly beautiful, 6 Times is a quiet masterpiece – and if nothing else, an excellent excuse to explore one of Edinburgh’s loveliest spots.
Originally published in The Student.