"Art for me is a form of nourishment. I need the land. I need it"
- Andy Goldsworthy

I'd forgotten about this British sculptor and his earthfilled, weighty work. A documentary about him, "Rivers and Tides", is coming to Portland next weekend at the 5th avenue cinema...if you aren't around, its on youtube here. Watch it; you sense with him the same connection to his material that fine woodworkers and tradesmen have. He knows the land. And his art, although truly unique in its material and often temporary state, shares a likeness to Rothko in my mind: an almost shockingly pertinent exploration of color, form and texture. Rothko always asserted that through work such as this one can experience the Divine, and reducing it to color theory is missing the point completely. Goldsworthy's work is simple, almost primitive. Primitive like our own longing as children play in the mud, primitive like Seamus Heaney's fascination with wells:

As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.

One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.

A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.

Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

If such primitive instinct is in us for connection, for pattern and color and form, it can only be part of Something real, that nourishes, that breathes into us. Just as Rothko's work is not just color, and Heaney's not just words, so is Goldsworthy's not just earth or environmentalism. Its deeper far than that and has the power to set a whole human, heart and perception and sensation, echoing.

1 comment:

Ben said...

He reminds me a bit of Christopher Alexander. I'll make a note to see that...