British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy (b. 1956) wields natural elements: ice, wood, stone, sand, wind to create pieces that call attention to landscapes. He constructs permanent and ephemeral works. The latter to push boundaries through experimentation, the former to create pieces that will endure and change.
In 1989 Goldsworthy constructed a “Wall that Went for a Walk” in his native Cumbria, a serpentine wall that hugs and encloses the landscape.
A decade later, he built a similar dry-stone sculpture “Storm King Wall” in New York. The undertaking is captured in Wall. The experience inspired Goldsworthy to reflect on the difference between American and English concepts of “walls.”
The nostalgic view of walls is a very American view because most of them have disappeared here. I still see walls as a vigorous and growing part of the landscape. I bring wallers with me from England and Scotland whose idea of a wall is work, and the idea of work is very important because it makes a strong link to agriculture.
At its heart, Goldsworthy’s “Storm King” is a dialogue of stone and wood, how the materials support or destroy each other. It is a study of how walls are grown a piece at a time.
I think the main difference between a design process and a sculptural process is that the latter is close to the way things grow. The large things I make don’t arrive large as much American sculpture seems to have. The way my walls are made, stone upon stone, is like growth.
Sculptor Barbara Hepworth once discussed why she was drawn to carving rather than modelling. She preferred work that extracted rather than formed. Goldsworthy’s sculpture – formed by adding piece by careful, considered piece – adds another dimension to this estimable art form.
Goldsworthy’s body of work, spanning more than 40 years, represents change, support and tension, trails and paths, and the connectedness of humans and nature.”Sculpture can take on the quality of a design in the landscape,” he writes in Wall, “and I make works that function at that level.” The entwined cores of nature and man is a constant thread in the sublime poetry of Wendell Berry, an American who writes of nature as a part of humankind: hands as roots, bodies as soil, our feet in the ground.
Goldsworthy’s sculptural interest in walls, in particular, grows not only from the strong history of agricultural walls in England but also from an interest in things that self-delineate. A concept observed by poet Thomas A. Clark who considered walking our natural form of self-delineation.