I am in no way qualified to discuss the natural art of Andy Goldsworthy. I can’t discuss his often temporary creations in learned analytical terms. I can only respond to them as a breathing, organic being. I can’t rationalise why I respond the way I do: in fact, I don’t want to. My reactions are entirely spontaneous: utterly visceral and emotional, unlike my reactions to any other artist’s work.
A few years ago, when I climbed the hill from the car park in Grizedale Forest in the Southern Lake District, I already knew I was looking for his ‘wall that went for a walk’. I had seen pictures of it before, but when I encountered it, among the scrub and bracken, snaking in and out of the edge of the woodland, I was left breathless. I grinned like a loon at its insanely complex construction, and loved its irreverence. I marvelled at its craftsmanship. I loved it.
Andy Goldsworthy uses natural materials to create new forms which are often surprising, often deliberately temporary. Ice sculptures are built overnight to melt in the morning sun. Cairns of pebbles are constructed, then swept away by the next tides. Sometimes there’s a sense of decay, but always a gentle, awesome beauty.
It’s clever, but not in an intellectual way. He presents us with natural substances in a (sometimes) manipulated form that in itself creates a new natural proposition, making us reflect on both the original and manipulated manifestation of nature.
One of his more famous creations was the series of Midsummer Snowballs. Fabricated in a freezer using snow transported from the Scottish Highlands, this was a wonderful piece of cognitive dissonance. Positioned around the City of London, these massive snowballs could only have been created by man. But here they were, in London, on Midsummer’s Day. And then they took days to melt, revealing yet more layers of dissonance, as the snowballs were filled with feathers, or pine cones, or barbed wire, or wheat. All this is catalogued in a terrific book, capturing not only the reactions of onlookers, the disparate ways in which the snowballs disintegrated, but also Goldsworthy’s own thoughts.
Most of Andy Goldsworthy’s work is displayed through his amazing photgraphy. Much of this is catalogued by the Crichton Campus of The Univesity of Glasgow in Dumfries, near to where the artist lives. This is a fantastic archive.
There are countless other sources online, perhaps most notably a group on Flickr. I guarantee you that I can’t do his beautiful work full justice. I just hope that you too will be silenced into a moment of reflection, stunned by its simplicity and skill. It might not change the world, but it made me think about my relationship with nature, and I think I’m more respectful, and thankful for it.