I wasn’t planning to write about Andy Goldsworthy today; but when I happened to page through Art in America a few days ago and saw this advertisement (a rather mediocre scan of it below) I changed my mind.
The lines really caught my eye, even before I noticed the text and the name at the top. Such elegant curves and angles, variety of negative space, calligraphic lines, so simple — but made me stop and wonder. What was this – cracked mud, metal, ink, paint? Ah — Goldsworthy, so of course it is some natural material, probably grass stalks. The exhibit is entitled “White Walls” so I suppose Galerie Lelong must have interior installation work by him. Ever since I read a Smithsonian Magazine article about Goldsworthy many years ago, I have been fascinated and inspired by his ephemeral art made completely with natural materials.
Visit the gallery website at www.galerielelong.com, click on Artists, then Andy Goldworthy. You’ll see nine photos of his outdoor installations. I was lucky to see the fourth one as a work in progress: “Roof 2003-2005 Permanent, site-specific installation for the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. ”
(Second Sunday blog entry alert: I see Sean Scully is also represented by this gallery, who is discussed in our next chapter of Terry Barrett’s Interpreting Art.)
The last of the nine images on the gallery website, “Stone Pile…The Following Day / Camling, Dumfriesshire, 1996″, reminds me of Monet’s haystacks. Goldsworthy creates site-specific art from local material, and weather is an important component too. He writes,
“I want my art to be sensitive and alert 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 sometime 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.”
After seeing the ad, I paged through one of my coffee-table books, “Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature” (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Pub., 1990) and wondered how I could possibly pick just a few favorite images for this blog entry. Mostly I am attracted to how he uses the color of his materials to form contrasts or progressions. However, I decided to follow the theme of the gallery ad and chose some examples that seemed to be more about linear composition.
Below are some photos I’ve scanned from the book (click on the thumbnail for a larger view). Titles are almost like little poems, purely descriptive, and often include the weather conditions.
“Wood pigeon wing feathers / partly buried / laid around a hole”
“Slate Crack Line”
“Early Morning Calm / knotweed stalks / pushed into lake bottom / made complete by their own reflections”
“Slits cut into frozen snow / stormy /strong wind / weather and light rapidly changing ”
“Continuous grass stalk lines / each stalk pushed into the wider hollow end of another / or two thin ends joined with a short length of thicker stalk / edging a hole, climbing a tree / pinned with thorns”
(two page spread in the book – too much for my scanner and me to handle)
“Feathers plucked from dead heron / cut with sharp stone / stripped down one side / about three-and-a-half feet overall length / made over three calm days / cold frosty mornings / smell from heron pungent as each day warmed up”
There are many things that fascinate me about Goldsworthy and his work (though sometimes he seems to make things just to see if he can — sometimes perhaps it is more about the process than the result). He uses mundane materials and simple compositions to make uncommon art. He has a vision, perhaps a compulsion, and sticks with it (ouch, no pun intended!). He is true to his medium — skillfully using thorns to join grasses or leaves, for example, or slicing feathers with a sharp stone instead of a knife; nothing “unnatural”, though that makes it so much more difficult; it looks easy but of course it isn’t. (If you saw the documentary movie Rivers and Tides you’d have a good feel for his process.) The basis of his compositions would work in any medium — for example, if the grass stalks pegged to the tree were inked lines on paper or neon tube lights in an empty room, it would still be an interesting composition.
How does knowing this art is ephemeral, and made of natural materials, affect your opinion of it?