Sunday, March 4, 2007

Andy Goldsworthy

These are leaves held together with thorns.

I just watched a documentary on the artist Andy Goldsworthy. I really enjoyed it. One of my favorite parts was watching the stone wall builders work. They place stones "just so" and break them to fit in place all very rapidly. It is pretty awesome. They must have incredible eyes for measuring and shapes.

Goldsworthy's work is all from nature and about nature. Its beauty comes both from creation itself, and from Goldsworthy's skill as an artist. He knows shape, line, color, and he carefully constructed these pieces to repeat line, shapes, and colors in nature using nature. For example, he'll place white colored stones between ochre stones then burgundy and back to white underwater in a stream to look like the movement of the water and the stones being under water make the color of the stones possible.

Did you get all that?

While in Idaho a few friends and I went to a small show of his photographs and I was challenged by someone as to whether his work should be called Art with a capital A. This person didn't believe that abstracted work should be considered Art at all. I can't agree with that point of view at all. Abstracted work is simplifed representational work, i.e. it still represents something.

It can be beautiful and godly in its intent and communication. It can still communicate. The problem is that Modern art simplified representational art by abstraction, wanted to get to the "essence" of the artwork, and eventually got to the point where it did not want to communicate. (Mark Rothko supposedly did get to the essence and he killed himself. Hmmm.) This is foolish because the artwork is still paint and a canvas not a magical portal to..."it" whatever "it" is.

Andy Goldsworthy is a Modern artist. In the documentary he spoke a lot about the "essence" of everything. One of my professors in college hated me because I refused to get to the "essence" of my work. (The fact that my weakness as an artist is to overwork my paintings made our relationship almost comical.) Anyway, just because Modernists got it wrong and their work was abstract doesn't mean all abstracted work is bad. If someone is trying to not represent anything then you could argue that there work is merely decoration, but abstract and non-representational artwork are not the same. (Rothko's paintings are often sold as decor.)

So, should Goldsworthy be considered an artist? I would argue, yes, because he is so skilled asthetically and conveys a knowledge and appreciation of creation so innovatively. He glorifies God whether he wants to or not through his medium. He would be dissatisfied with my validation of him, but so be it. Why must the most simplifed artwork have the most complicated write-ups? Why do artists who are trying to get to the "essence" and simplify not know how to explain their work? They just don't want to get to the realization that the work is simple i.e. foolish.

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