Mark C. Taylor on Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy

We conclude our week-long feature on Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell and Goldsworthy, with an excerpt from Mark C. Taylor’s chapter on Andy Goldsworthy:

Goldsworthy’s preoccupation with place is often misunderstood. Some critics summarily dismiss him as a druidic figure devoted to Celtic paganism and occult mysticism. It is important to acknowledge that some of his comments tend to encourage this reading of his work. Goldsworthy often writes about a common energy that circulates through both nature and his art. Responding to criticisms of his art for being merely decorative, he leaves himself open to attack on other grounds. “Color for me,” he explains, “is not pretty or decorative—it is raw with energy. Nor does it rest on the surface. I explore the color within and around a rock—color is form and space. It does not lie passively or flat. At best it reaches deep into nature—drawing on the unseen—touching the living rock—revealing the energy inside.” The more carefully one studies Goldsworthy’s work, however, the clearer it becomes that his vision differs from New Age spirituality in important ways. While New Age believers preach a gospel of harmony and light, Goldsworthy acknowledges the violence and darkness of natural processes. He probes this darkness in a series of works that figure holes. “The hole,” he explains, “has become an important element. Looking into a deep hole unnerves me. My concept of stability is questioned and I am made aware of the potent energies within the earth. The black is that energy made visible.” Turrell might well have written these words. Over the course of his career Goldsworthy has explored holes in a variety of media—rocks, stones, sand, mud, flowers, leaves, twigs, snow, ice, frost, wool, feathers, even water

What is impressive about the most fragile and delicate of these works is not so much the interplay of light and darkness but the interrelation of beauty and void. If, as Stevens suggests, the poem is “part of the res itself and not about it,” then these works by Goldsworthy are, like Heidegger’s thing, no-thing.

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