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Saturday 26 November 2016

Inspirational Icons: Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy has the distinction of being the first visual artist whose work moved me to tears. It's strange in a way, as his work isn't as obviously emotionally evocative as many other artists. In fact one could say that it's emotionally neutral, a "blank canvas" in the reaction it seeks to provoke. But the first time I witnessed a collection of his large scale works up close at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2007, I was totally overwhelmed.

The video at the top is a short introduction to Goldsworthy's work, but at the bottom of this post I'm including a link to the entire 2001 documentary Rivers and Tides which is (currently, at least) available on Youtube. If the first clip intrigues you, it's well worth spending the time (ninety minutes or so) it takes to watch the second. The variety of Goldsworthy's work, the time he devotes to it, and the visual impact all mean it rewards those who explore it in more detail. 

Actually there are so many things about Goldsworthy's art that are magical to me. I love how he combines art and nature - especially this year as I've become more preoccupied with the diverse natural environments around me. The fact that he's working with nature, albeit in a controlled way, re-organising it, proves that we can be in harmony with the world and still shape it in a loving, respectful way. The transient nature of much of Goldsworthy's work speaks to this too - ice melts, water dries, leaves blow away. Goldsworthy's use of environmental materials extends to tools and the most basic building blocks - natural pigments are ground with stones and bound with water, branches are fastened together with thorns, leaves are linked through each other or thread onto grass, mud acts as glue. These works can easily be absorbed back into the earth as Goldsworthy is not introducing anything "alien" into his environments. Because of this, his sculptures also sit particularly beautifully in their homes.

I also think there is something incredibly magical in making art that is not necessarily for public display. The fact that Goldsworthy's works are often created in remote places, destined to be destroyed by nature, their existence recorded only on film, is somehow fitting. Some things are too precious for the public to be entrusted with.

I also love the concepts behind much of Goldsworthy's work - there are often surprising levels of detail, such as in the Snowballs in Summer project of June 2000 where thirteen giant snowballs, each weighing a tonne, were shipped overnight from Goldsworthy's Scottish home and installed in the streets of London. This would have been a striking enough concept on its own, but Goldsworthy also included hidden "surprises" in a sort of environmental variant of "Pass the Parcel" so that as the snowballs melted, they revealed traces of their rural Scottish origins in the shape of raw fleece and cow hairs, pebbles and pine cones.

Goldsworthy's art speaks to me precisely because it is such a multilayered affair. There is the concept, the process, the finished piece, the documentation - each of these elements an essential link to the whole. It is a balm to the soul in the same way as a walk on the seaside or a hike in a forest. It offers hope that humans and nature can co-exist peacefully, that patience is rewarded, that wonderful things are happening around us all the time, often going unnoticed. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to work on my driftwood dolls....

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