Magazine article New Internationalist

Hand to Earth: Sculpture, 1976-1990 // Review

Magazine article New Internationalist

Hand to Earth: Sculpture, 1976-1990 // Review

Article excerpt

ANDY GOLDSWORTHY is one of a kind. He is a sculptor in so far as he moulds and shapes natural materials but he is worlds away from the monumentalism of a Moore or an Epstein and even further from the strutting power games of the Turner Prize brat-pack. Born in Cheshire, England, in 1956, Goldsworthy began to gain recognition for his outdoor pieces in the early 1980s, with exhibitions and projects throughout the world. He is based in Dumfriesshire, Scotland and much of his best work has taken inspiration from the surrounding countryside.

If a label has to be pinned on what he does, it is best described as Land Art; work done in the countryside, utilizing natural materials. Working on site, Goldsworthy uses what is to hand-stone, water, earth, ice, leaves, twigs-to create pieces which draw on their surroundings but, in a variety of visual puns on nature, could only have been created by human hand. These relate to and become part of the landscape and have a finite life-span, determined by the materials and the conditions. Goldsworthy is happy to see this process of decay: 'Decay is part of the work. Implicit in each structure is its collapse.' This sense of collaboration with nature, working with the grain of what is there rather than imposing a dominant human vision, is central to an understanding of Goldsworthy's art.

Although all artworks inevitably become 'commodities' in the marketplace, Goldsworthy to some extent side-steps this dilemma by making a photographic record of his work. His approach to photography is deliberately simple; he uses standard film and lenses and no filters, emphasizing that the intention is not to replace the original work but to document it.

Goldsworthy's breakthrough came in 1989-90, with his 'snow sculptures' made at Grise Fiord in Canada's Northern Territories and during three days spent at the North Pole. The book which resulted from this trip-Touching North-is a haunting evocation of his experience.

In 1990 he had a major retrospective exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. This brought rave reviews and a much wider public. The accompanying book, Hand to Earth: Sculpture 1976-1990, is an affordable and comprehensive overview of his career, from early work such as intricate leaf and twig constructions to larger permanent works such as the Grizedale Forest tree sculptures or the monumental 'Earthworks' in County Durham, England. …

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