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April 19, 2008

Andy Goldsworthy

It must be hard to believe (how could I have not known about him), but I didn't recognize Andy Goldsworthy's name when someone told me about him some months ago. I thought he must be an artist that only a few knew about, but I was very wrong. It turned out that he is well-known throughout the world (just not by me until recently).

I understand that a few critics have looked down upon what he does, and in fact I went searching for articles the authors of which did not admire Goldsworthy and his art. I thought I had finally found one but it was no longer available on the web. I'm sure that some day someone will come along and read this and let me know where to find such an article.

Meantime, after reading one of his books, and after reading a lot about him on the web, and looking at many, many pictures and videos showing the artist at work and describing his projects and his thoughts about them, I've come to be one of those who indeed greatly admire him and in fact think he's probably an artistic genius. This you can be sure about: He's not your normal artist.

But what kind of an artist is he? An article in Wikipedia calls Andy Goldsworthy a "sculptor, photographer and environmentalist." Some refer to him as an "environmental sculptor" or simply an "artist." There is no doubt at all that he is an artist.

What does he do, exactly? He assembles objects found in nature, usually at the same place where he's found them (though occasionally, for an exhibition, he constructs "installation art" that's not done on the site where he found the objects). He makes things with these natural objects (such as leaves, rocks, sticks, ice.....) that appear as though nature has made them, and yet they are obviously made by an artist....In other words, what he makes with natural materials all around him is what Nature would make if Nature were an artist - Nature produces the materials and the inspiration and the artist produces the work. That's how it seems to me. It's wonderful. It's amazing. Only a human could do these things, but it has to be a very special human so in tune with Nature that it's as though he is an artistic extension of it...the part of it that makes art.

Most of his works are, and are very much meant to be, temporary. Some last just hours, or minutes. Some can't really quite be "finished" before they are destroyed by wind or gravity or other natural forces, yet that doesn't matter (it's no doubt disappointing when the artworks prematurely disintegrate, yet that's what happens in Nature -- There is constant change, not always seemingly for the good).

Goldsworthy experiences something as he's working that he tries to express, making something visible that wasn't there but could have been (this last is a paraphrase of a quote, but I have lost the quote and so this is my interpretation of the idea), and he is always ready to photograph what he does so although his work might have disappeared by the time anyone else knows about it, we're able to see what he's done and what's happened to it. (I wonder if anyone would have known he was an artist if he lived before we had photography.)

I've noticed in all he does and in all he says there is quietness (not quietness as in "lifelessness" but quietness as in "acute awareness"). He's very aware of what's going on in nature; he doesn't want to impose on it but to be part of it, and he's naturally a quiet, inwardly-focused person (an introvert like myself - As he explains, "I enjoy being by myself.....To be honest, I think I am drained by...people").

And he's very intense. There is a lot of tension and drama in what he does, too, no matter that it's made of sticks and stones, and that's one of the things we can learn from viewing his work, i.e., what's in nature Nature is not about pretty scenery but about natural forces and change.

Andy Goldsworthy was born in 1956 in Cheshire, England and now lives in Scotland.

Below are

1) videos
2) links to online articles, photographs, and an interview with Goldsworthy
3) mention of his books
4) some Goldsworthy quotations.



Left-click once on arrow in middle of video, or the arrow at left under the video to begin. There is sound with this. This short video is an excerpt from the documentary called Rivers and Tides.


You can rent the video from amazon.com here for $2.99, for 30 days (7-day viewing period after you've started to look at it). It's 1 hour and 31 minutes long.


-- There are several other short videos showing Goldsworthy at work that you can watch, which I've put together in a "pod." The pod is among the video pods at the bottom of the page. Just left-click gently on a picture to start a video (if you don't click gently, it sometimes takes you to YouTube...It's kind of ugly there, though I like YouTube).

-- Here's a site that's loaded with short videos about Goldsworthy. They're not what you'll find in the video pod on this page, nor will you find them anywhere on YouTube. It's on the ArtisanCam site.

There are MANY videos on this site to do with Goldsworthy. Just click on pictures, or click on questions. There's a gold mine here but you have to try things -- a left-click on a picture usually leads to a video, or else several videos. These are of very good quality and are quite interesting. You could spend a long time here, so be prepared to come back later (again and again) if you don't have a long time.

Be sure, on that first page, to not only click on the smaller pictures to get to videos, but also the larger picture at the left, showing Goldsworthy working with small sticks, on an installation that looks to me like a huge spiderweb. If you click on that one larger picture you'll get to three videos showing Goldsworthy and several assistants putting together some of his installations at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, with commentary by Goldsworthy as well as the artisans helping him.


-- This page has some very nice photos of some of his works, plus comments by Goldsworthy.

--Nice article in the New York Times on Goldsworthy

--Review of the documentary "Rivers and Tides"

-- Another good review of "Rivers and Tides"

-- Q&A with Andy Goldsworthy - Time Magazine

This last one, above, includes a Photo Essay (Click on picture under the word PHOTOS on left side of page) including a very interesting interview with Goldsworthy.

-- Sheepfolds is shown on this page in a 360 degree picture that moves around the whole scene as you watch -- or -- do this for a real treat: Hold your mouse cursor on the picture (press on the left side of your mouse and keep it pushed down), anywhere, and move the picture around so that you can see anything you want, even the sky, even the ground below.

-- Andy Goldsworthy Online on the Artcyclopedia site.


Andy Goldsworthy has had many books published, and I'm assuming that all of them are as well illustrated with his beautiful photographs as the one I've read (Passage).

This biography of Goldsworthy in Wikipedia has a long list of his publications toward the bottom of the page. Here are names of just some of these books: Stone, Wood, Passage, Time, Hand to Earth, Wall, Touching Nature, Enclosure, Rivers & Tides, The Art of Andy Goldsworthy: Complete Works. There are many others listed.


I have a feeling that people have taken every sentence he has uttered (including, probably, "I'm going around the corner to get a cup of coffee") and made them into
"quotations," but these are the ones that strike me personally.

"At best a work of art releases unpredictable energy that is a shock to both artist and viewer - I do not mean shock in conventional sense but an emotional tremor that articulates a feeling which has been in search of form."

"Photography is a way of putting distance between myself and the work which sometimes helps me to see more clearly what it is that I have made."

"People also leave presence in a place even when they are no longer there."

"My art is an attempt to reach beyond the surface appearance. I want to see 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."

"The older I get the more I realise how fluid an urban environment is. Bunhill Fields graveyard for example, represents the absence of people but also the presence of their memory."

"As with all my work, whether it's a leaf on a rock or ice on a rock, I'm trying to get beneath the surface appearance of things. Working the surface of a stone is an attempt to understand the internal energy of the stone."

In an interview, Goldsworthy was asked: "What kind of a person are you?" He answered, "Dull." The interviewer then asked, "How would you describe yourself to someone who's never met you?" Goldsworthy answered, "People want to meet me. I think they have an idea that it's going to be really interesting. And it's not. I'm actually not that interesting. What I make is really interesting. But I...I am not."____


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Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

thank you for this brilliant site, i got a lot of insight from this for my school assignment :) You have gone to a lot of effort to put many different sources together!

Jean Vincent said...

Thank you for your very kind comment! It is much appreciated. - Jean

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