Environmental art has to be my favorite style of art from any era we have studied. There is so much freedom and opportunity held within it. Environmental art often is created outdoors in rural areas and is transitory, or temporary. Two artists that stood out to me from this genre are Andy Goldsworthy, and Strijdom van der Merwe.
Goldsworthy was born in Britain but now lives and works primarily in Scotland. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Preston Polytechnic in Lancashire. He primarily uses his hands, body and what natures supplies to complete his work, but has also been known to use power tools. Once his work is completed, Goldsworthy immediately photographs it and earns his living by selling these photographs. His work Pebbles Around a Hole done in Japan in 1987 is one of his simpler works. Its simplicity and geometric balance are what drew me to it. It is made solely by natural objects as is typical of Environmental art.
Another very simplistic and similar work of art done by Goldsworthy is Rowan Leaves Around a Hole, 1987, West Bretton, England. Living in Alaska we don’t have much variety in fall leaf colors and the vibrancy of these leaves caught my eye. Goldsworthy incorporates leaves into a number of his works. This piece demonstrates the very transitory effect of most Environmental art. The leaves can be blown away, lose their color, and degrade easily which makes his work in this situation very brief.
I looked everywhere for when and where Goldsworthy’s Gold Leaf Trunk Ring was completed, however, couldn’t find anything more about it. I chose to include it with this exhibit as it captured my attention the way the gold had the effect of making the tree appear on fire. This work is much less transitory than the previous work listed, though it is likely that he took it off after he photographed his work. With much more time though, this work would eventually fade away as well. What makes this work ‘Environmental’ is the outdoor location where it was done and the way it incorporates nature.
The second artist that I wanted to portray in this exhibit was Strijdom van der Merwe. He is originally from South Africa and received a fine arts degree from the Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, South Africa. He received the medal of honor from the South African Academy of Arts and has traveled far and wide to complete his works. Van der Merwe has done art in South Korea, Belgium, Sweden, Australia as well as South Africa just to name a few countries.
Van der Merwe’s Messages of the Southern Earth completed in South Africa in 2005 caught my attention by its extraordinarily transitory effect. It is done on beach sand right near the water’s edge, which from experience can be washed away at any moment, even while being created. He makes use of nothing more than his hands and the sand around him, taking nothing, and leaving nothing more than a few designs. Something I really appreciate about most Environmental art.
Another one of van der Merwe’s work entitled Migration was of interest to me. He created it in 2001 in Belgium. It captures such a well-known idea in a new light. What fascinated me the most was that he used different shades of sticks for each person, showing that they come from different backgrounds. This piece might stand for a while, yet eventually it will be blown over or weathered and disappear, just the same as every other Environmental work.
The final piece I selected for this exhibit was van der Merwe’s work done in his home town of Stellenbosch in 2008. Like much of his work, it is untitled but has become known by the name ‘Wrapping 393 Trees.’ What I liked about this artwork was that once its display time was over, van der Merwe donated the three kilometers of red cloth to make Duvets for the children at the Ikhaya Trust Centre. He didn’t let his art go to waste. Other than Goldsworthy’s Gold Leaf Trunk Ring I haven’t included any works that made use of manmade items to create Environmental art. This is a common technique and though these works aren’t naturally transitory, they are deconstructed after a certain amount of time.
Environmental art is a style still developing and being created today and I am excited to see where it heads.