Andy Goldsworthy

February 2011

Publication: The Times

Since coming to prominence as a sculptor of nature twenty years ago the work of Andy Goldsworthy has been characterized by two crucial elements: photography and ephemerality. Both are inextricably linked because many of Goldsworthy’s works – fashioned from materials such as ice, water, mud, leaves, twigs and snow – have an extremely short life-span, recalling the words of Burns “But pleasures are like poppies spread, /

You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;  /Or like the snow falls in the river, /A moment white-then melts for ever;” So, in many instances, photography is the only way in which much of the sculptor’s work can be shared with an audience.


Goldsworthy’s link with Burns is more than superficial as both share a fascination with the poetry of nature and both draw inspiration from the same part of Scotland – Dumfries and Galloway. It’s here that the majority of photographs (of which this show entirely consists) were taken,  many recording work Goldsworthy has made near his home in Penpont.


One early work consists of a series of carefully folded rhododendron leaves which, gradually decreasing in size, form of a spiral.  The form recalls Matisse’s famous ‘Escargot’ and it may also be Goldsworthy’s tribute to the pioneering work of the Victorian polymath D’Arcy Wentworth Thomson whose highly influential publication, On Growth and Form sought to explain and describe such natural phenomena in terms of geometry and mathematics.  Goldsworthy’s work, or a least his photographic record of it, is distinctly celebratory, relying on the shockingly contrasting tones of the dull red soil and the slippery, shiny lime-green of the non-indigenous leaves.


Goldsworthy revels in such stark disparities, highlighting in his work not only the subtlety of colour in nature but its garish, joyful differences.   Elsewhere, in two other delicate constructions, Goldsworthy has created two circles which derive from the amazing colour contrasts found in autumnal leaves – in this case fagus sylvatica, or beech. 


Goldsworthy’s art is its often painstakingly constructed; certainly this is the case in the images of various winter ice sculptures made adjacent to a small burn. Goldsworthy must have spent many hours patiently holding the ice fragments together until the freezing process joined the jagged, random elements together to form arches and free-standing assemblages.


If there is a disappointment here it lies in the fact that no actual works are on display – for Goldsworthy uses many materials which do have substantial longevity, such as stone, wood and even blood. Even one such sculpture would have satisfied the need for a tactile, physical experience. However, it’s a major coup that this lively - but sadly underfunded - gallery has delivered the work of such a popular artist.

* This show is the first in a year long series of events at the Peter Potter Gallery which link art, archaeology and landscape.