ANDY GOLDSWORTHY: Professional Playing Around In The Woods

Environmental art has a defining characteristic that separates itself from the rest of the art world; it self destructs over time. When an artist creates environmental art, they alter the natural world to create different pieces based on the influential world around them. However, because environmental art uses organic materials, and is often located in vast open spaces, the art work itself is usually left to erode and decay over time under natural conditions. Andy Goldsworthy, age 58, is one of the most achieved environmental artists of our time. He attended the Bradford College of Art in 1974 and transferred to Preston Polytechnic in 1975 where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree. Although Goldsworthy learned the majority of his trade in college, his initial inspiration originated from his childhood. Growing up, Goldsworthy worked on his family farm in Scotland, spending his days getting his hands dirty in the world that surrounded him. Growing up in a tranquil setting, Goldsworthy admits he prefers to work alone in a quiet, subversive way. However, for larger projects, Goldsworthy takes on a team to assist him. Goldsworthy creates art from driftwood, stones, leaves, sticks, icicles, and snow. He preserves his artworks through photographs before they collapse, melt, or decay. Goldsworthy realizes and is aware oh how nature is in a state of change and how that change is the key to understanding. He said in his documentary, Rivers and Tides, "I want my art to be sensitive and alert to changes in material, season, and weather". As much as Goldsworthy would like to preserve his creations, he believes photography is sometimes the most appropriate way to describe some of his works because his works won't last forever due to changes in the weather. In an interview with TIME Magazine, Goldsworthy says, "In the neutral space of a gallery, the light doesn't change, the works are just held in suspension when they really need to go from darkness into light. The sun needs to penetrate and catch the bronze in just such a way in just such a moment. Photographs can show us that". Goldsworthy also believes photography has helped him realize what he has created. In his documentary River and Tides, Goldsworthy explained, "Photography is a way of putting distance between myself and the work which sometimes helps me see more clearly what it is I have made". His goal through his artwork is to reach beyond the surface appearance. "I want to see the growth in wood, time in stone, nature in a city, and I do not mean its parks but a deeper understanding that a city is nature too - the ground upon which it is built, the stone with which it is made". Goldsworthy achieves these goals through artworks such as chains of poppy petals in a stream, icicle sculptures, and rock walls.

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In this artwork, Andy Goldsworthy placed poppy petals in a stream, well aware the petals would fall out of place. He knows his artworks can not last forever. However, Goldsworthy also realizes his artworks leave a presence in the place they were created even when they are no longer there. Although his artworks won't last forever, Goldsworthy finds most of his joy in creating the arwork itself. Goldsworthy loves using his hands to get into and connect with nature. He believes things must be put to the test. In his documentary, Goldsworthy explained, "That's why we make things, otherwise they would be no more than ideas. There is often a huge difference between an idea and its realization. I've had what I thought were great ideas that just didn't work". The idea that Goldworthy tries to reveal is that there is a certain energy within all aspects of nature that he attempts to find through his many artworks.

One of Goldsworthy's favorite mediums to work with is ice. The hard work Goldsworthy puts in to create such implausible shapes come from the meticulous process of exploiting the typical interaction between water and temperature that produce icicles, and prodding them in such a way to form intricate sculptures. However, as much as Goldsworthy loves ice, the medium he is most fond to work with is snow. For him, snow provokes responses that bring him right back to childhood. In his documentary, Goldsworthy even recalls the first time he created a snowball and even remembers putting it in his mother's deep freeze. For Goldsworthy's snow sculptures, it takes him about three to six hours to make each snowball, depending on the snow quality. He says, "Wet snow is quick to work with but also quick to thaw, which can lead to a tense journey in the cold store". Goldsworthy also enjoys working with snow because he finds special characteristics about each snow ball. He said once in an interview, "Some of the snowballs have kind of an animal energy. Not just because of the materials inside of them, but in the way that they appear caged, captured". However, Goldsworthy often faces failure when he tries to work with snow and ice. He remembered his experiences during a cold time in Britain. He said, "I attempted to pursue ideas only hinted at in previous winters. It is difficult to predict where good ice and icicles will form. When the cold arrived, that is where I went--dissapointed at first because it was too sheltered by overhanging trees. One small pool was barely frozen. I used this precious ice--the work was not good, but it gave me a feel for the place". Goldsworthy learned more and more as time went on about his environment and was able to create more sculptures as he became more familiar. However, some of his projects did fail, and from these failures Goldsworthy learned a valuable lesson. He said in his documentary, "I am aware of how nature is in a state of change and how that change is the key to understanding. I want my art to be sensitive to changes in material, season, and weather. Often I can only follow a train of thought while a particular weather condition persists. When a change comes, the idea must alter or it will, and often does, fail. I am sometimes left stranded by a change in the weather with half-understood feelings that have to travel with me until conditions are right for them to reappear".


While working with stones, Goldsworthy loves to find the energy and characteristics of stones he works with. He said in his documentary, "As with all of my work, whether it's a leaf on a stone or ice on a stone, I'm trying to get beneath he surface appearance of things. Working the surface of a stone is an attempt to understand the internal energy of a stone". Goldsworthy believes stones are ingrained with geological and historical memories. However, Goldsworthy sometimes has a hard time finding the perfect spot for a stone sculpture. He says he has to revisit a spot many times before he feels like it's ready to have an audience. Goldsworthy also counts on his audience to influence the artwork. He once said in an interview, "The difference between a theatre with and without an audience is enormous. There is a palpable, critical energy created by the energy of the audience". Sometimes, Goldsworthy deliberately works in a public area so he could create art in a public context. He explains that sculptures need the movement of people around them to work.


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Rivers and Tides Documentary