Sunday, April 01, 2007

Hare, Blood and Snow

Some recent newspapers have had big features on Andy Goldsworthy, coinciding with his new retrospective at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. They seem to be very positive reviews and often make an effort to convince the wary reader by addressing the potentially embarrassing fact that Goldsworthy is extremely popular and makes work with appeal to children (like the daughter of The Observer’s Tim Adams) and those with no knowledge of contemporary art. This quote from Sue Hubbard’s review in the New Statesman is interesting in this respect, implying that the ‘art establishment’ are missing the environmental importance of Goldsworthy’s brand of landscape art:
‘For some years now British landscape artists such as Goldsworthy, David Nash and Richard Long have been looked down upon by many in the art establishment. They have been regarded, despite their wide appeal and international success, as latter-day 1960s renegades, too metaphysical, too intense, too lyrical and unapologetically moral. This is an age that is more comfortable with cynicism than with the stench of dung and death. Yet never has there been a time when these artists' work was more resonant, as the planet warms and old landscapes are destroyed.’
Reviewers often try to convince us of the authenticity of Goldsworthy’s installations and sculptures, contrasting their simple beauty with the cynicism and shock value of some contemporary art. A good way of doing this is to contrast Goldsworthy’s life in the landscape with the contemporary cliché of the trendy East London artist, e.g. Channel 4 News: ‘Not for him the chic but shabby studio in one of London's most fashionable artists' quarters. Andy Goldsworthy creates his work in the open air...’ Tim Adams says ‘it is as impossible to imagine Goldsworthy living in Hoxton as it is Gilbert and George in the Dales. He is a man of nature, and part of him wants to remind us, somewhere deep down, that we all are.’

I probably won’t get to go to this retrospective but I would be interested to see the new works that incorporate blood and human hair, which seem less reminiscent of the beautiful ephemeral images in his ‘coffee table books’ and closer to post pastoral art that acknowledges and incorporates the real violence in nature. For example, there is Hare, Blood and Snow, made from a dead hare by mixing its blood with snow and putting this into ‘the hare's stomach, hanging the animal up so that the melting liquid dripped from its mouth and nostrils on to sheets of paper’. Sue Hubbard thinks these works relate to ‘the cycles of death, putrefaction and renewal, with an uncompromisingly elemental beauty. Goldsworthy is to environmental art what Ted Hughes was to poetry.’

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