Tuesday, 27 July 2010


Andy Goldsworthy is a renowned land artist from England. His passion for nature and change has made his works stand out brilliantly in the art world. Goldsworthy aims to help people notice nature once again and ponder all of its magical mysteries. By creating sculptures made of all natural materials and constructing them in their original environment, Goldsworthy is able to observe the effects of time in nature. Time and the notion of being temporary are aspects of life that the environment and every human has in common. Time links all life; Goldsworthy’s ephemeral sculptures help reinforce the importance of understanding the reality of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

It seems our society is advancing every day, and as we do we travel further away from connecting to the one entity that allows us as a species to exist: the environment. Andy Goldsworthy, a prominent British land artist from Yorkshire, made it his life goal to remind the world just how magical nature still is and the many truths that it openly presents to any willing eye. As stated by Goldsworthy himself, “There is no doubt that the internal space of a rock or a tree is important to me. But when I get beneath the surface of things, these are not moments of mystery; they are moments of extraordinary clarity” (Goldsworthy qtd. in Adams). The environment is connected to us, and we are connected to it. Time and the notion of being temporary are aspects of life that the environment and every human have in common. Goldsworthy presents these ideas through the works that he creates around the world.

Goldsworthy spent most of his childhood working on farms, which coincidently is where his love and admiration of nature bloomed. He enjoyed the repetitive work of farm hands, much like he now enjoys the repetitive work of sculpture making. Goldsworthy claimed that, “farming is a very sculptural profession, building haystacks or plowing fields, and burning stubble” (Goldsworthy qtd. in Beardsley). At nineteen years, he entered the Preston Polytechnic in northern England as a fine art major. He soon found out that he despised working indoors. The classrooms and studio work were not in his interest. He would escape to Morecambe Bay, where he would build small sculptures that the tide would quickly destroy. Before long, he realised that while his fellow students were representing the landscape on canvases, he was instead “drawing on the landscape itself”. Many artists struggle with how to convey an occurrence in the real world into a canvas limited by its two-dimensional nature and the specific materials available to them. Goldsworthy skipped to using the real world as the materials and canvas, and in doing so, “he can illustrate aspects of the natural world—its color, mutability, energy—without resorting to mimicry”, thus helping the rest of the world see the beauty that he already saw in nature. Goldsworthy’s art is influenced by the changing weather and seasons. As Goldsworthy stated on his 1990 webpage, “Philosophy,” “For me, looking, touching, material, place, and form are all inseparable from the resulting work. It is difficult to say where one stops and another begins. Place is found by walking, direction determined by weather and season”. Whether it is leaves, stones, ice, or wood, he examines each natural material to create his organic designs. A striking energy is found in nature, and Goldsworthy is a master at using line, color and shape to help magnify its power. He says, “art for me is a form of nourishment” (Goldsworthy qtd. in Von Donop). Goldsworthy seeks the “energy that is running through, flowing through the landscape” (Goldsworthy qtd. in Von Donop), aiming not at capturing it as much as at participating in it. He “relies on what nature will give him. Goldsworthy ‘feels’ the energy from nature and transcends that energy into an art form. For this, his transient sculptures contradict the permanence of art in its historical pretense”. Goldsworthy essentially challenges the meaning of art and traditional views of what art is. Besides creating aesthetically fascinating sculptures, Goldsworthy’s art speaks silently about meanings and symbolisms that are deeply manifested in each work.

All of Goldsworthy’s masterpieces are created with natural items, and most of them are constructed from items in the natural setting. This peculiarity makes his art so powerful. For example, his work entitled River is a rock in the middle of a river, on which Goldsworthy placed dozens of icicles pointing straight up like spires. The icicles give off a majestic feeling, showing that nature has a certain power over us, be it noticeable or not. We are nothing without nature; we would not exist as a species without it. One of Goldsworthy’s biggest aims is to just get people to notice nature again; through his extraordinary works, he inspires thoughts of how we interact with the environment and how time affects everyone and everything. He uses these seemingly ordinary objects, and creates magnificent sculptures that, in an instant, grab anyone’s attention. It is all about an emotional response. As Goldsworthy states in his book, Passage, An artist makes things that become a focus for feelings and emotions - some personal, some public, some intended, some not. At best a work of art releases unpredictable energy that is a shock to both the artist and the viewer. I do not mean shock in conventional sense but an emotional tremor that articulates a feeling has been in search of form.

This desire for his audience to experience an emotional response from nature has inspired works such as Sticks Stacked, in which Goldsworthy stacked sticks in a hole. However, he positioned the sticks in a way that left a hole in the middle - a hole within a hole. This seemingly ironic suggestion leaves the viewer confused enough to look at it and ponder the art in a new way.

In Beech Leaves, Goldsworthy layers red, orange, yellow, light green, and dark green leaves on top of a small pool, creating a fluid flow of dynamic natural colors. The astonishingly intense colors snatch the attention of any viewer and make one wonder, for just a moment, how the immensely beautiful scene came to be. Since it is made from natural materials, the viewer pairs the sculpture with nature, but the uniquely expressed composition produces confusion. Is this really natural? Ultimately, Goldsworthy achieves his goal of helping people notice nature in a way that is different than they did before. His art possesses many deep meanings that he is just waiting for people to explore. Goldsworthy explains that for him, “art has to be more than shock. I would rather subvert things, try to make people look at them differently”.

Death, renewal, and time are large themes in Goldsworthy’s art. Time is the ultimate link between all beings on earth. Time strings together all of humanity, regardless of ethnicity or culture, and it is a major factor that exists in nature as well. Everything is born from something else, exists, and then dies or is destroyed when it is time. Goldsworthy makes his audience realise this truth by making ephemeral works. His art is short-lived, and he captures every moment of his art’s changing and gradual demise. For all his works he takes a series of pictures that depict their transformations due to the changing world around them. In the case of River, as well as all his other works, Goldsworthy takes pictures of the sculptures’ gradual destructions. His subtle obsession with death and rebirth only adds to the deep symbolic meanings of his works and the different ways he wants his viewers to see nature. He explains that, “each work grows, stays, decays - integral parts of a cycle which the photograph shows at its height, marking the moment when the work is most alive. There is an intensity about a work at its peak that I hope is expressed in the image. Process and decay are implicit” (Goldsworthy qtd. in Witcombe). Another example of Goldsworthy's documentation of ephemeral change can be seen in his photographs of Végétal. This was a performance piece about the significance of change and the fleeting characteristics of time. Goldsworthy collaborated with choreographer Régine Chopinot and her company, Ballet Atlantique, to bring the rhythms of nature and the ideas of movement and time to modern theatre. Végétal consists of five parts, in which the dance includes changing sculptures using nothing but natural materials, and the dance moves fluctuate between choreographed and random. Goldsworthy took a series of pictures recording the passage of sticks thrown into the air, so that the “intensity of the gestural act of creation is only apparent momentarily, recorded through processes of generation, regeneration, and decay”.

Because we are so deeply bonded to nature, Goldsworthy seems to convey valuable information as to how we should treat the environment that we inhabit. Although this may not be one of his intentional messages, Goldsworthy seems to suggest a mentality that humans could be more respectful to nature and everything it has given us. Much like Goldsworthy’s ephemeral designs, we should have the same impact on nature. When we arrive we should live our lives, but after we are gone the world should be able to go back to the way it was before. Time links humans and nature. Without this bond, both would cease to exist. So we could all benefit from noticing the magic of nature and treating it with more appreciation.

Although many of Goldsworthy’s works only last a couple of days, if not a couple of hours, the impact of their symbolisms and meanings should be recognised. As Goldsworthy states, “At its most successful, my 'touch' looks into the heart of nature; most days I don't even get close. These things are all part of a transient process that I cannot understand unless my touch is also transient - only in this way can the cycle remain unbroken and the process be complete” (Goldsworthy qtd. in Witcombe). Time interconnects all humans to the environment: the magic aspect of it, as expressed through Goldsworthy’s art, keeps the artist and the viewers endlessly in awe.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Andy for making such beautifull art!

    Hope to meet you once! x

    Albertina van der Kooi