Artist focus: Andy Goldsworthy


 Andy Goldsworthy in Leaning into the Wind, a Magnolia Pictures release. © Thomas Riedelsheimer, all rights reserved. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.



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

― Andy Goldsworthy



Andy Goldsworthy, OBE, is a famous contemporary British sculptor, known for working with natural materials to create both ephemeral, temporary artworks and permanent installations. Although he was not part of the 1968 exhibitions that crystallised the term, he has been associated with the Land Art movement. As the name suggests, these type of artworks are site-specific installations, created in and with the landscape. 

Andrew Charles Goldsworthy was born on 25th July 1956 in Sale Moor, Cheshire, England. As a thirteen year old boy, whilst still attending school, he began working part-time on a farm. That early experience, Goldsworthy acknowledged, has greatly influenced his artistic practice. He attended Bradford College of Art and Preston Polytechnic in Lancaster, obtaining a BA in Fine Arts in 1978. As an art student, Goldsworthy begun to favour working outdoors, embracing what the landscape had to offer, over the controlled environment of the studio. As he explained later, photography became a way to document his work and show it to his teachers.

When working with ice, snow, beautifully arranged leaves stuck together with water, leaf stalks pinned to one another with thorns or stones balanced into a structure with the sole aid of their own weight on the shore, a gust of wind, sun rays or sea waves are enough to compromise or undo Goldsworthy’s transient sculptures. Documentary photography has allowed him to capture his artworks, both suspending and highlighting the temporary qualities of his sculptures, inviting further reflections and deeper understandings. Volumes, like the popular Andy Goldsworthy: Ephemeral Works, 2004-2014, provide a visual introduction to his work.


Images: Andy Goldsworthy: Ephemeral Works, 2004-2014 courtesy of Abrams Books

Film director Thomas Riedelsheimer has also documented Goldsworthy’s work in two movies. Rivers and Tides (2001) and Leaning into the Wind (2018) follow the artist through many workdays and commissions. They both capture Goldsworthy’s deep yearning for wanting to understand the natural world, his belief that art grants him the possibility to look at nature in a different way, and provide insights into his artistic thought processes. When seen together, the documentaries also reveal the evolution of this artist, the circular nature of some of his installations, his preference for certain formal solutions and how he has expanded and adapted his work methods. 

Image: Nicholas Smale from Stockport, UK CC BY 2.0

With a career that spans over four decades and counting, Goldsworthy’s work is in the collections of many museums worldwide. He has had important solo shows and has been invited to create numerous site-specific installations over the years. Among his upcoming commissions is Watershed: a site-specific permanent work for the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, in Lincoln, Massachusetts, USA, due for completion at the end of 2019. 

Image: A view of ‘The Leaf Stalk Room’ installation, for Layered Land: an Andy Goldsworthy solo exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2007. Nicholas Smale from Stockport, UK CC BY 2.0 

Over the years Andy Goldsworthy’s artworks have delighted viewers into reconsidering Nature, its cyclicality and transient qualities. His impactful, but poetic creations highlight the natural elements and forces both around and within us, making evident something ever-present and yet all too easily overlooked.

Written by Caterina Tiezzi