Imagine a snowball on hot summer day. Now, imagine thirteen snowballs, nearly six feet tall, placed on random street corners throughout the city of London. I introduce you to the work of Andy Goldsworthy.
This British artist, born in 1956, collaborates with nature’s media to construct his art forms. Andy Goldsworthy uses leaves, bark, rock, clay, stones, feathers, petals, twigs, sand, ice and, as indicated, snow. While any one of these materials may be the main ingredient, he takes the purity of the creation one step further to connect the pieces using saliva or nearby thorns. From Hand to Earth, he is quoted “…I take nothing out with me in the way of tools, glue or rope, preferring to explore the natural bonds and tensions that exist within the earth…each work is a discovery.” With these natural products, Goldsworthy is able to create some incredibly vibrant works, whether he uses red rock to dye rain water against a canopy of green fern or poppy petals to adorn boulders in a river-bed.
Goldsworthy’s inspiration and ideas blossom from the changing seasons, weather and time. In the autumn, fallen leaves may be his source or as described in the beginning, snow or ice in the winter. In the case of the giant snowballs displayed on a summer day, the snow had maintained its integrity by remaining in a freezer until ready to unveil. Also in the case of the London snowballs, each piece was filled and sprinkled with items such as pine cones, pine needles, sticks, pebbles, soil or even cow fur. Playing with the element of time, as the snowballs start to melt or shrink, the surprise contents start to emerge and show off new perspectives. Through the process, Goldsworthy photographs his pieces with the initial captured image taken at the peak of his creation. . From Andy Goldsworthy, A Collaboration with Nature, “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’s sculptures are not a mere product but a poetic connection between himself and the natural world. His creative process is sparked by environmental cycles, energy from the piece and energy from the space around the piece. Again from A Collaboration with Nature, Goldsworthy states “The weather – rain, sun, snow, hail, mist, calm – is that external space made visible. When I touch a rock, I am touching and working the space around it. It is not independent of its surroundings and the way it sits tells how it came to be there. In an effort to understand why that rock is there and where it is going, I must work with it in the area in which I found it.”
Another element Andy Goldsworthy later came to contemplate and create is the hole. By stacking material of choice in a circular motion, leaving out the center, he was able to add a new dynamic to his art form. Collaboration highlights “Looking into a deep hole unnerves me. My concept of stability is questioned and I am made aware of the potent energies with the earth. The black is the energy made visible.” This deep, dark component is what Andy Goldsworthy envisions to be included, even promoted, in his very last piece.
It’s interesting that nature as a medium has been available to us from the beginning of time and yet is often overlooked as a reworkable art-form. While there is an incredible beauty in the intimate details of the living environment, there is also a great strength and determination in the natural elements. From Goldsworthy, “…humans have some ability of controlling nature, but eventually, in the end, nature controls us.”
Goldsworthy studied at Bradford Art College and Preston Polytechnic, he’s exhibited all over the world and has a collection of books.
A Collaboration with Nature, Andy Goldsworthy, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, © 1990
Hand to Earth, edited by Terry Friedman and Andy Goldsworthy, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, © 1990
Stone, Andy Goldsworthy, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, produced by Jill Hollis and Ian Cameron for Cameron Books, Moffat, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, © 1994
What is Art? What is an Artist? An exhibition exploring the perception of art and the identity of the Artist through history and in contemporary society. (website) http://www.arthistory.sbc.edu/artartists/photoandy.html