There was something extremely fortuitous about spending Easter at the amazing Yorkshire Sculpture Park (near Sheffield, UK), where Andy Goldsworthy is doing a 30 year retrospective. The park itself is impressive; a huge diversity of sculptures not least of which are several of Henry Moore large brass works. It boasts 5 indoor galleries and a sprawling collection interspersed with sheep, woodland, lakes, and on this past Easter weekend, one of the biggest crowds yet seen.  

Hanging TwigsGoldsworthy’s works fill 4 indoor spaces and many sites outdoors. What is most striking to me is his integration with natural elements, and his sense of stewardship-cooperation rather than dominion-conquest over nature. There is a notable absence of synthetic materials, and his list of tools is mostly low tech, (with the exception of the camera used to capture his ideas) – a trowel for stone, a saw for wood. Indoors, which is not his preferred space; I enjoyed his hanging twigs – thousands of twigs suspended from a high ceiling and held together only with thorns, to make a web like net. A similar piece is shown here. 

In his “walls”, clay is allowed to dry, cracking into fabulous patterns, none of which he has excersised any control over. With the passage of time and natural decay being such a key aspect of his milieu, these sculptures will not last forever, and perhaps not even for the duration of the exhibit (Jan 2008). Sheep hoofs

The largest gallery, the Longside, holds large scale canvasses which were laid underneath a sheep feed. The muddy hoof markings (right) are those of the sheep jockeying for a place at the feeding bin. It makes so much more sense to me than ego-centric Abstract Impressionism, although the outcome is somewhat similar. And they smell quite different to Jackson Pollock too.    

Hanging TreesGoldsworthy works with rather than in opposition to the forces which shape the landscape. An example of this is his series called hanging trees, 3 felled yet intact tree trunks and boughs, embedded in pits of
Yorkshire stone which typifies the area, which form part of the boundary fence of the park.
His “outclosure”, a high circular wall around a pit, subverts the traditional notions of “My Property” or “My View”.  

I was quite prepared to fork out 35 pounds for his beautiful book Time, where the real essence of his vision – the creativity inherent in natural processes, is made clear with extracts from several diaries in which he simply journals his thoughts and responses to the world around him, without the philosophical baggage which typifies most contemporary sculpture and installation. 

For me, Goldsworthy is a prophetic voice whose low-ego vision of the Natural order is as magnificent as that order itself, for it is simply showing us the splendor of what is, rather than dominating, abstracting or attempting to own or control the world.