We cooperate as an association to advance the practice of sculpture and the reputation and appreciation of sculpture and sculptors in the community. This is regardless of whether or not we make a living from sculpture and regardless of our preferred style or medium. To this end we support artists’ moral rights, we advocate a professional attitude to the production and presentation of work and encourage the artistic and intellectual stimulation of interaction amongst artists of all persuasions.

Andy Goldsworthy

At our recent exhibition Ebb & Flow on Herring Island, if you took a moment to wander, you would have come across a beautifully shaped cairn made from Castlemaine slate. This piece (titled Cairn) is the work of British sculptor and photographer Andy Goldsworthy.  Andy’s work is unique in its use of natural settings and media to create temporary or lasting sculptures that reflect a sense of deep connection with nature.

Cairn - GailLeenstra / CC BY-SA

“We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say we have lost our connection with nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves” AG

Andy Goldsworthy was born in Sale,1956 in Cheshire in the north of England. While still young, his family moved to a suburb on the outskirts of Leeds where his father was a mathematics professor at the local University. Growing up within a strict Methodist environment, Andy was instilled with a strong work ethic. He spent weekends and summers working in local farms where he appreciated the meditative aspects of repetitive work.

Andy had to try many times to get into Art School and eventually was accepted as a foundation student at Bradford College of Art. He struggled to then find a place in a degree course but eventually was accepted into Preston Polytechnic in Lancaster (1975-78). Andy found the environment of the art studio constrictive - he was drawn to nature - “One day in first year (of college) I went out to the beach and dug things, made lines, and the tide came in and washed it away. I learned more about the tide, the sand, the texture, I learnt so much in that couple of hours. And I shifted to working outside. I didn't really go back in again."

“Learning and understanding through touch and making is a simple but deeply important reason for doing my work” AG

Andy found inspiration in the works of Joseph Beuys and Robert Smithson. His work was unusual and not easily categorized - how do you define a work consisting of autumn leaves wrapped around a tree that has fallen across a river (https://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag03/june03/goldsworthy/gold1.shtml ) or a set of icicles formed into a star (https://www.knowitall.org/photo/ephemeral-art-icicle-star-artopia)? It apparently took him ten years before he made enough money from his works to file a tax return.

Stone House - Herring Island, 1997 By GailLeenstra - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25113955 

The stone house was made from Dunkeld sandstone from his response to the site and objects found there. According to Andy, this work is most powerful from a distance in that it emphasizes the sense of discovery and concealment that an island holds for him.

Although Goldsworthy's recognition grew steadily from this point on, the ephemeral nature of his work meant that he was an artist that was not easily categorized, remaining largely outside the gallery system and outside of the market. It also meant that of necessity he had to find ways of documenting his work so that there would be some tangible, physical evidence of his many fleeting natural creations. It took Andy almost a decade to start making enough money to file a tax return.“I couldn’t possibly try to improve on nature. I’m only trying to understand it by an involvement in some of its processes” AG

By the mid-90’s, Andy’s reputation had grown significantly. He received private and public commissions from around the world. Art critics however often criticized his work for being too pretty and solely focusing on beautifying nature. In an age where conceptual art was in full swing, Andy’s leaves, stones and ice could attract the label of “twee”. To counter this, Andy drew attention to the fact that each of his works “grows, stays and decays”. In his eyes, his work had a greater connection and depth with nature, it was more than making trees pretty.

Arch at Goodwood Edwilde at
en.wikipedia. / Public domain
Following the losses of those near to him, works in his later years adopted darker themes of transience, the void and death. Figures leaning into strong winds are amongst some of his more recent pieces.

Andy’s work continues to inspire many around the world,from those who appreciate the pure beauty of his work to those who admire its sculptural sensibilities and its deep communion with the environment. His delicate approach, naturalistic sensibilities, use of unusual media and settings remind us that there are frontiers in sculpture waiting to be discovered.

A short YouTube clip on his work is available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DjCMqtJr0Q

A quick view of the breadth of Andy’s work can be seen in this link https://www.google.com/search?q=andy+goldsworthy+sculptor&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwiG4M3XwMHpAhWKSCsKHcBMDiwQ2-cCegQIABAA&oq=andy+goldsworthy+sculptor&gs_lcp=CgNpbWcQAzICCAA6BAgjECdQ3fsFWMTNBmDTzwZoAHAAeACAAecBiAHZJ5IBBjAuMjAuN5gBAKABAaoBC2d3cy13aXotaW1n&sclient=img&ei=waTEXsb7BYqRrQHAmbngAg&bih=657&biw=1366&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GBAU791AU791

Thanks to Michael Adeney for this story

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