Gormley, who won the Turner Prize in 1994 after this work was created, currently has a major solo exhibition at The Royal Academy. But it is at Colchester’s Firstsite that arguably his most famous, iconic and beloved sculpture will reside, for the next four months. 

Field for The British Isles was made by Gormley in 1993 from a mountain of brick clay with over 100 volunteers who were invited to find their own form for each figure following three simple instructions: “hand-sized, stand up and have eyes”.

After being acquired by the Arts Council Collection in 1995, Field for the British Isles has been exhibited at a variety of venues across the UK, including Salisbury Cathedral, Greenesfield BR Works in Gateshead, The British Museum and Tate Liverpool. At each location, the configuration of Field is changed to suit the space, but the thousands of small figures are always installed to resemble a dense carpet, with each figure looking directly at the viewer. In Firstsite the figures will swarm through the rear half of the building, including throughout the main gallery spaces - a seemingly endless mass confronting the viewer.

Gormley himself said of the artwork: “Thirty tonnes of clay energised by fire, sensitised by touch and made conscious by being given eyes ... a field of gazes which looks at the observer making him or her its subject.”

Firstsite Director Sally Shaw says, “Field for the British Isles comprises 40,000 figures and there are 40,000 children and young people living in Colchester. This work is an ideal way to represent the scale of the local population and the responsibility adults have to ensure that Colchester’s youngsters are given every opportunity and the necessary support to fulfil their potential.”

The artwork echoes and underlines Firstsite’s abiding vision of creativity, equality and opportunities for all. Installation of this monumental artwork at Firstsite will be achieved by a team of community volunteers. Access to the exhibition is free of charge.

The arrival of Field follows a momentous 12-months for Firstsite, which has been selected as an Arts Council Collection National Partner for three years. Firstsite has also won NHS and Arts Council England funding to ensure low income families can be welcomed and engaged at the gallery through its unique Holiday Fun programme. Holiday Fun enables all children to enjoy art, food and sports activities throughout the school holidays. It is a programme whose notion of social prescription and cultural engagement has been hailed as a national example and one which will be taken across the region by the gallery.

The arrival of Field cements Firstsite’s reputation as a champion of equality. As critic Adrian Searle said of the work in 1996: “This close-packed crowd…a sea, at one's feet, is a reminder that the world's entire population could stand on the Isle of Wight… shoulder to shoulder... Gormley has said that one of the resonances of this work is that it is a reminder that there is only one humanity.”

For more information about this and other exhibitions/events at Firstsite follow @firstsite on Twitter, @firstsitecolchester on Instagram, like the Firstsite Colchester Facebook page or visit firstsite.uk 

For more information on the Arts Council Collection and the National Partners Programme follow @A_C_Collection on Twitter or @artscouncilcollection on Instagram, like the Arts Council Collection Facebook page or visit artscouncilcollection.org.uk