Like River Like Tides / Andy Goldsworthy

EPHEMERAL is the term most often used to describe Andy Goldsworthy’s artwork, but our impression of his creations is everything but.  Flipping through pictures of his ‘environmental sculptures’ online was an emotional experience with a long aftertaste.  Some pieces emit a meditative quality that is not only peaceful but also enlightening.  Other pieces are more intense, suggesting human vulnerability and their simple fear for the unknown, the absent, or even death.  Mother nature is his subject matter, while what it has to offer – stones, twigs, ice, snow, sand, leaves, etc. – becomes his palette.  Goldsworthy pays tribute to change and process in our natural environment, and his sculptures symbolize growth and decay when a state of equilibrium is maintained for only brief moments before natural forces dismantle it.  In our view, his work embodies the humble Taoist spirit of growth, with each piece carefully developed and later branched off from its core.  The form multiplies in scale and complexity to potentially infinity until gravity or other forces of nature disagrees.  Goldsworthy’s projects put life under the microscope.  His transient creations are thought provoking as one tries to grasp the source of life while anticipating transformation.  His creativity presents a poetic expression of life, faith and balance.

In retrospect of Christo + Jean-Claude’s contribution to the world as introduced in our previous post, Goldsworthy appears first as yet another master in transient representations to contradict the permanence of art in its traditional pretense.  However, Goldsworthy and recently widowed Christo contrast one another on almost every other level.  ONE. Christo’s work is often considered bold and monumental while Goldsworthy is the introvert quietly working in a much more personal scale.  TWO.  While Christo offers a refreshed perspective on planning and our built environment, Goldsworthy is contemplating life and mother nature.  THREE.  While Christo is busy covering up the world to get everyone’s attention, Goldsworthy in turn exposes what’s around us in its finest details and most fundamental logic.  At last but not least, while Christo’s work has a pre-determined shelf life (though short) and the results can be repeated, Goldsworthy anticipates movements and changes to his subject and the result is in fact a variable.

A hundred years from now, both artists will each, still, have a special place in people’s heart.  They will be reminded by how Christo struck them with mystery over something they are rather familiar with.  They will recall how the littlest things Goldsworthy assembled that put tears in their eyes with a very personal message.  They’d savor the mental exercises of peeling off Christo’s white cloth stretching their imagination.  And they’d always hear Goldsworthy’s deep mellow voice saying, “I’m so fortunate to be alive” with a humble smile on his face after his installation falls completely apart.  Goldsworthy’s creative palette will change constantly, as the materials speak for their time and place.  No matter how long each piece of his art may sustain the power of nature, the process of construction and deconstruction will always intrigue us as well as the artist himself.  It is not the finite answer one may search for but the possibility and unknown that define Goldsworthy’s art and moments of transformation that he wants to capture so dearly.


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