Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

Nature's Artful Expression; Nick Alderson Looks at the Aesthetic Legacy of the Land Art Movement

Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

Nature's Artful Expression; Nick Alderson Looks at the Aesthetic Legacy of the Land Art Movement

Article excerpt

THIS week we continue to look at art in the landscape by leaping the garden fence into the great theatre of the natural landscape beyond, in order to explore the idea and possibilities of what has come to be known as the Land Art Movement.

This movement had its origins in the US in the latter part of the last century (that sounds such a long time ago) when a group of artists began not so much to depict the landscape in their works but to actually engage with it, to make the works part of aita.

These early art projects typically involved large-scale earthworks incorporating both literal and abstract sculptural expressions.

Michael Heizer's awater stridera, a gigantic insect-motif constructed from earth as the finished surface on a landfill site, is a great example of these early works.

Maya Lin's awave fielda, a series of simple but sublime abstract earthwork wavelike forms, is another beautiful example of this approach, in which landscape is both the subject and the material of the art piece.

The physical integration of these works within the fabric of the landscape is what distinguished them from more conventional ideas involving portable sculptures. But their involvement with the landscape went further than that.

Most of these works were also deeply bound to the particular characteristics of the site, not so much as object to be viewed and appreciated in isolation (with the landscape as the setting and the backdrop) but as fully engaged pieces, as fundamentally part of the setting a invoking a powerful sense of place.

As the movement rapidly grew, so did its purpose and reach, so that many of its proponents came to see in its practice a powerful way of articulating man's relationship with the landscape; with nature itself.

What's all this got to do with gardening or landscaping, I hear you ask.

Well, when we design or construct a garden or change a landscape, it raises basic questions: What is nature? What is our relationship to it? How should this guide our intervention? How in fact should we proceed?

The subsequent acts are therefore partly practical and partly philosophical. …

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