Spirit in the Art of Andrew Goldsworthy
“Movement, change, light growth and decay are the lifeblood of nature, the energies that I try to tap through my work. I need the shock of touch, the resistance of place, materials and weather, the earth as my source. I want to get under the surface. When I work with a leaf, rock, stick, it is not just that material itself, it is an opening into the processes of life within and around it. When I leave it, these processes continue.”
I want to write about Andrew Goldsworthy. I’ve written about art in the form of papers for classes or press releases for an art gallery I used to work for, but I’ve never written about art from my heart. I’m not sure it’s possible. Like things of the spirit, language is slickery and elusive when it comes to feelings about art. In fact, I often feel that most professional writing about art seeks to make it more opaque — have you ever read the stuff art galleries send out about their clients? It’s surely meant to create an “in group”, a group “in the know”. But I don’t think this is what art is about. Art is a vehicle to talk about the very things that words cannot define. But I guess I’ll try.
“The reason why the stone is red is its iron content, which is also why our blood is red.”
I discovered Andy Goldsworthy when I took an Art History class on art created after 1940. That particular session was on land art and the professor showed a few slides of AG and mentioned a documentary on his work, Rivers and Tides. I immediately put it in my Netflix queue. Watching it, I felt the same way I felt the first time I saw a Van Gogh. After being raised primarily on realism, I felt like I was seeing something totally new, like my eyes had been switched out and my brain had been switched out and my heart had been switched out and the world was an entirely different place. This was something totally different than I had previously understood art to be, and something deeply in touch with Spirit.
“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.”
Goldsworthy is so deeply in tune with landscape, with nature, with season, with the immediate, with the present moment. My personal experience is that I really can only sense or feel god in the present moment. There are certain activities that can get us there. Meditation or prayer. Being in nature. Physical activity. And art. Art takes you there and, in addition I think, art allows you to, like Spirit, create. Time vanishes. Or maybe it’s more like you don’t experience time as one thing, you are not in one place in time but shifting forwards and back and maybe sideways and up and down as well. Something moves through you and it is you making the art and yet you channelling it from something else as well. I feel like I can actually see this experience in Goldsworthy’s art and I feel myself as spectator also step outside of the normal flow of time.Well enough. I’ll just let Goldsworthy speak for himself.
“A stone is ingrained with geological and historical memories.”
“Ideas must be put to the test. That’s why we make things, otherwise they would be no more than ideas. There is often a huge difference between an idea and its realisation. I’ve had what I thought were great ideas that just didn’t work.”