Andy Goldsworthy - profile

Andy Goldsworthy

United Kingdom 1956

Environmental Art

Andy Goldsworthy
Andy Goldsworthy
United Kingdom
September 3, 2016

Using the temporal materials as the reflection of the world we live in, Andy Goldsworthy collaborates with nature creating ephemeral works which remain immortalized only on photographs. Traveling around the world in a quest for perfect environment, he strives to understand nature by his direct participation, enjoying the freedom provided by the possibility to create something just using his hands and material that is within reach. His outdoor sculptures of snow, ice, leaves, rock, clay, feather and twigs represent the idea of change, movement, growth, and decay that are the vitality of nature, the driving energy that he tries to elicit through his pieces. Using the earth as a source, he makes art sensitive as every process that happens around us. Nature and land are in a state of change which itself is the key to understanding.

 It's natural contact They search a book about home land
Andy Goldsworthy – Stone House, 1997 – Image via

Early Life and Influences

Goldsworthy was born in 1956 in Cheshire as the son of F. Allin Goldsworthy, professor of applied mathematics at the University of Leeds. Growing up on the Harrogate side of Leeds in the West Riding of Yorkshire, in a house ending the green belt and working on farms since the age of 13, he was obviously influenced with the repetitive routine of farm tasks that is widely applied in his creative approach. He has studied fine art at Bradford College of Art and later received Bachelor of Arts at the University of Central Lancashire. Always disliking work indoors, he found his escape nearby Morecambe Bay where he has created his first temporary structures collapsed under a flood tide. He very soon realized that his artistic interests were closely connected to his rural childhood than to classes and studio surroundings. Instead of representing the landscape, he used it as a “canvas”, representing the works of transcendent beauty. The artist often changed his place of residence and in a quest for the perfect environment he traveled all around the world making sculptures, besides at England and Scotland, at the North Pole, in Japan, the Australian Outback, in the United States and many other countries. Taking the opportunity each kind of day weather offers, he always strives to take the best of it finding the satisfaction in a freedom of expression. But he goes under the surface and the leaves, rocks or branches are not the pure materials, but represents the life in and around them. Because of the transient nature of his work, photography has the main role in providing evidence and an access to a wider viewing public. “Each work grows, stays decays – integral parts of a cycle which the photograph shows at its heights, marking the moment when the work is most alive. There is an intensity about a work at its peak that I hope is expressed in the image. Process and decay are implicit.”[1]

Through the camera, he is able to manipulate color, light, perspective, and other effects, taking the work out of its natural surroundings. Also considered the pioneer of modern rock balancing, he doesn’t use any tools but his bare hands, teeth and found help on the site. Still, creating the permanent pieces, such as Roof, Stone River, Moonlight Path or Chalk Stones he sometimes has to employ machine tools. Whether permanent or ephemeral, the main characteristic and the essence of his creations is the concern about the relationship of people and the world around them. “My approach to larger, more permanent work is longer-term. There is a process of familiarization with the site through drawings that explore the location and space. This is the only time I use drawing to work through ideas; for me, it represents a change in approach. I often live with a site at the back of my mind for months, sometimes years–a target for energies and ideas. By working large, I am not trying to dominate nature. If people feel small in relation to a work, they should not assume that there is an intention to make nature itself small. If anything, I am giving nature a more powerful presence in the mass of earth, rock, wood that I use. I do not change the underlying processes of growth, and nature’s grip is tightened on the site that I have worked”[2]. His art influences the people to question how life affects and is affected by ecological systems and cultural conditions. Considering humans an integral part of nature, Goldsworthy encourages and intrigues all five senses to feel and look closer at the surroundings.

The essence of Goldsworthy’s art is the concern about the relationship of people and the world around them

 they search leaves around home from sculpture project
Andy Goldsworthy – Stone Kings Wall, 1995 – Image via

Ephemeral and Permanent Art

During the winter of 1988/89, along with the group of assistants, Goldsworthy created eighteen monumental Snowballs displayed in the Old Museum of Transport in Glasgow where they remained five days, gradually melting which was documented through the series of photographs and performances. One more example of his documentation of ephemeral change is the Ballet Atlantique, a performance that diverts the attention of the passing of time. Series of photographs recorded the transit of sticks thrown into the air. This is in accordance with his beliefs that the intensity of gestural act of creation exists only for a moment, followed by the process of generation, regeneration, and decay. One of his foremost works, his first museum commission for a permanent piece in the United States, but also the largest single installation to date, Storm King Wall, reflects his nature-based methodology through this dry stone walls, originated from the British agricultural tradition. Imagined as a 750-foot-long wall meandering through the wood to the large oak tree, it finally reached the nearby lake downhill. After some time, the wall was extended again, emerging on the other shore, continuing uphill to Storm King’s western boundary at the New York State Thruway, making the total of 2,278 feet. Up to five feet high, built stone-by-stone of the remains of an old farm wall found in the woods, the line follows the path that artist himself chose, partially coinciding with the old one. Designed and supervised by Goldsworthy, the construction was built by a team of stonemasons, shaping each piece and placing on top of the another with no concrete or any bonding material. In 2010, on the fifteenth anniversary, the artist and his team returned to construct Five Men, Seventeen Days, Fifteen Boulders, One Wall in a nearby field that Goldsworthy memorized upon his last visit. Working for seventeen days, they lifted the 309-foot long wall using the 250 tons of stones, evoking the ancient ruins. In 2005, he produced another commissioned work for the entry courtyard of San Francisco’s De Young Museum called Drawn Stone. The artwork represents an embodiment of the situation with frequent earthquakes and their consequences that affect this city. Consisted of a giant crack in the pavement that broke off into smaller cracks, and broken limestone that could be used as a bench, the artist used the hammer to convey the effect of the cracks.

Not seeing himself as a designer of his works, the artist thinks that designing something implies forethought and plan that should be followed. But, his pieces grow gradually and without any expectations, layer by layer, rock by rock, leaf by leaf, completely unpredictable. Sometimes work collapses, once of more times, but that act of building and rebuilding itself becomes the part of an art piece because the failure is very important in both art and life. “To achieve what I want, to achieve the works that I make, I have to be fully committed to them succeeding. I couldn’t make them otherwise. And you cannot feel that commitment without feeling or having a deep sense of loss when they do collapse or fail, and that’s inevitable.”[3] One of the interesting outdoor works is his rain shadows, the artist’s imprints on the ground when it’s raining. Although sounds simple, this complicated process requires much patient – sometimes it stops raining when he’s half-way through and in some cases he just has to lay down for hours waiting for the shower. With the aim of understanding the atmospheric precipitation, during the time, Goldsworthy learned everything about the rain, recognizing its different rhythm and kinds. Enjoying the cold weather, there are rare freezing winters during the last years, so the artist uses every opportunity to exploit ice. Often, his work in ice is only a reflection of the things he did in stone, so he claims that one can learn much about the stone by working with ice and vice versa. The hard side of the work with this material is the fact that temperature rarely stays below freezing all day long in Britain, so he must work on dark and very quickly before the temperature starts to rise and the piece collapses.

The artist believes that the intensity of gestural act of creation exists only for a moment, followed by the process of generation, regeneration, and decay

 it's a British book about snow His project is about land sculpture
Andy Goldsworthy – Snowballs in Summer, 1988-89 – Image via

Exhibitions and Achievements Worthy of the Film Story

From the beginning of his career, Andy Goldsworthy rejected the traditional idea of the artistic studio, working exclusively outdoors. From 1976 until 1984, he has been creating only ephemeral works in natural environments captured by the camera. His more recent work consists of mostly permanent installations that he calls “a living part of the landscape”. Goldsworthy has produced more than seventy exhibitions and projects all over the world including those in the Canadian Arctic, Digne, France, the streets of London, and Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. At the same time, he has made temporary museum installations at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (1997), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2004), New York, and The Tate, Liverpool (2004), among others. Goldsworthy’s other large-scale installations in the United States include Garden of Stones (2003, Museum of Jewish Heritage, New York), Three Cairns (2001-2003, Des Moines Art Center, Iowa), Neuberger Cairn (2001, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York), West Coast Cairn (2002, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego), Stone River (2001, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California), and Storm King Wall (1999, Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York). All of these large-scale commissioned works have their origins in ephemeral works[4]. Andy Goldsworthy is the subject of a 2001 documentary feature film called Rivers and Tides, directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer.

Andy Goldsworthy lives and works in Penpont, Scotland.


  1. Anonymous. Andy Goldsworthy, Wikipedia [September 3, 2016]
  2. Baker, K. Searching for the window into nature’s soul, Smithsonian, Washington, 1997
  3. Goldsworthy, A. (2015) Ephemeral Works, NPR Books [September 3, 2016]
  4. Anonymous. Biography: Andy Goldsworthy, National Gallery of Art [September 3, 2016]

Featured image: Andy Goldsworthy’s profile – Image via

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Force of NatureGalerie Valerie Bach, BrusselsGroup
2016I still believe in miraclesInverleith House. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh, ScotlandGroup
2016Andy Goldsworthy - Domaine de Chaumont-sur-LoireCentre d’Arts et de Nature, Chaumont-sur-LoireSolo
2015Vancouver Biennale - Open Borders Crossroads VancouverVancouver Sculpture Biennale, Vancouver, BCGroup
2015Andy Goldsworthy - Leaning into the WindGalerie Lelong - New York, New York CitySolo
2014Uncommon Ground - Land Art in Britain 1966-1979Mead Gallery - Warwick Arts Centre,CoventryGroup
2014Structure Of The WorldMcMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, ONGroup
2014The Water Tank ProjectThe Water Tank Project, New York City, NYGroup
2014Folkstone Triennial 2014Folkestone Triennial, FolkestoneGroup
2014Reines WasserLentos Kunstmuseum Linz, LinzGroup
2013Looking at Landscape: Pastoral to PresentGallery Oldham, Oldham, Greater ManchesterGroup
2013Poetics Of ConstructionHaines Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2013SchneeweissMarc de Puechredon, BaselGroup
2013L'arbre qui ne meurt jamaisThéâtre des Sablons, Neuilly sur SeineGroup
2013Summer Exposure Galerie Lelong, New York City, NY Group
2013An Artificial Wilderness - The Landscape in Contemporary PhotographyThe Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CTGroup
2012Uncommon GroundFlowers Gallery, Emsworth, HampshireGroup
2012Andy Goldsworthy: Working with timeOpelvillen, RüsselsheimSolo
2012Dissecting NatureQuint Gallery, La Jolla, CAGroup
2012To remind: works of memory and monumentMiddlesbrough Institute of Modern Art - MIMA,MiddlesbroughGroup
2012True North: Contemporary Art of the Circumpolar NorthAnchorage Museum of History and Art, Anchorage, AKGroup
2011WATER, FIRE and EARTH the source of creativityContemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto - CAMK, KumamotoGroup
2011Touching NorthGalería Arnés + Röpke, MadridSolo
2011Interventions in the Landscape Galerie Lelong, New York City, NY Group
2011Cabin: CodexVisual Research Centre, Dundee, ScotlandGroup
2011Andy Goldsworthy: SnowDeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MASolo
2011Eco-ArtPori Taidemuseo, Pori Art Museum, PoriGroup
2011Pars Pro TotoGalerie Lelong, ZurichGroup
2011Drawn from LifeAbbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, CumbriaGroup
2011Andy GoldsworthyPori Taidemuseo, Pori Art Museum, PoriSolo
2011NatureKarl-Ernst-Osthaus-Museum, HagenGroup
2011KunstmarktGalerie & Edition Bode GmbH, Nuremberg Group
2011LANDSCAPE IN CAM´S COLLECTION, CAM - Level 1 and Temporary Exhibition GalleryCentro de Arte Moderna - CAM - Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon Group
2011Time TimelessGalerie Springer Berlin, BerlinGroup
2011The Altered Landscape, Photographs of a Changing EnvironmentNevada Museum of Art NMA,Reno, NVGroup
2010Summer 2010Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis, MNGroup
2010An informal surveyBolinas Museum, Bolinas, CAGroup
2010LandschaftGalerie Springer Berlin, BerlinGroup
2010New York Dirt Water Light Galerie Lelong, New York City, NYSolo
2010On & OnLa Casa Encendida, MadridGroup
2010Landschaften LandscapesGalerie Lelong, ZurichGroup
2010Andy Goldsworthy - Incidental ObjectsHaines Gallery, San Francisco, CASolo
2010Beyond In Western New York 2010: Alternating CurrentsAlbright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NYGroup
2009Biennale internationale d’art contemporain de Melle 2009Biennale internationale d’art contemporain de Melle, MelleGroup
2009Naturellement humainCentre Culturel Joseph Kessel, VillepinteGroup
2009Out Of The City - EastSlovakian Gallery Kosice, KosiceGroup
2009Land MarkHaines Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2009Twelve Travels - British Art in Sensibility and ExperienceSetagaya Art Museum, TokyoGroup
2009Out Of The CityNational Center For Contemporary Art (NCCA) - Moscow Branch, MoscowGroup
2009The New LandscapeAberdeen Art Gallery, Aberdeen, ScotlandGroup
2009FLOWER POWERCraa Centro di ricerca arte attuale Villa Giulia, VerbaniaGroup
2009Art With PaperBoutwell Draper Gallery, Sydney, NSWGroup
2009Focus PhotographieGalerie & Edition Bode GmbH, Nuremberg Group
2008A Year in Drawing Galerie Lelong - New York, New York City, NYGroup
2008Material TerrainHaines Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2008Six MasterpiecesGalerie Springer Berlin, BerlinGroup
2008Snow, Ice and EarthGalerie Springer Berlin, BerlinSolo
2008Andy Goldsworthy - North Uist WorksAn Lanntair Arts Center, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides, ScotlandSolo
2008Out Of The CityZapadoceska galerie, PilsenGroup
2007Contemporary, Cool and CollectedMint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NCGroup
2007JanoMuseo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, MadridGroup
2007Andy Goldsworthy - En las entrañas del árbolMuseo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía,MadridSolo
2007On PaperHaines Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2007Shadow Galerie Lelong - New York, New York City, NY Group
2007Landscape & Memory IIHaines Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2007Art is an Idea - The Moquay CollectionScottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art - SMoCA,Scottsdale, AZGroup
2007Outdoor Sculpture From The Permanent CollectionNeuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NYGroup
2007Andy Goldsworthy - Solo ShowGalerie Lelong, New York City, NY Solo
2007Andy Goldsworthy Works from the 80Galerie Springer Berlin, BerlinSolo
2007Andy Goldsworthy - Yorkshire Sculpture ParkYSP, Wakefield, West YorkshireSolo
2007OUT OF THE CITYGaléria mesta Bratislavy, BratislavaGroup
2006Tom Bendhem - Collector - The WilsonCheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, Cheltenham Spa, GloucestershireGroup
2006Human Nature: Landscape photography from the GoMA collectionGoMA - Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, ScotlandGroup
2006Andy Goldsworthy - Photographs 1987 - 2004Boutwell Draper Gallery, Sydney, NSWSolo
2006Out of Line: Drawings from the Collection of Sherry and Joel MallinHerbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NYGroup
2006The Genius of the Place - Land and Identity in Contemporary ArtTaubman Museum of Art,Roanoke, WVGroup
2006Shifting Terrain. Contemporary Landscape PhotographyThe Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CTGroup
2005Contemporary Drawings: A Selection from the Gift of Mr. and Mrs. I. C. DealDallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TXGroup
2005Andy Goldsworthy - PassageAlbion, LondonSolo
2005The Andy Goldsworthy ProjectThe National Gallery of Art, Washington, DCSolo
2005Andy Goldsworthy: Stone Light DrawingsHaines Gallery, San Francisco, CASolo
2005The Transformative Power of ArtArt Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ONGroup
2005Photography NowHackelBury Fine Art Limited, LondonGroup
2004The Tom Bendhem Collection - Ben Uri GalleryThe London Jewish Museum of Art, LondonGroup
2004TemporalscapeHaines Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2004Andy Goldsworthy - Mountain and Coast Autumn Into WinterThe Contemporary Austin,Austin, TXSolo
2004SommerausstellungGalerie Springer Berlin, BerlinGroup
2004The White StationPump House Gallery, LondonGroup
2004Andy Goldsworthy on the RoofAndy Goldsworthy on the RoofThe Metropolitan Museum of Art,New York City, NYSolo
2004Andy Goldsworthy - Mountain and Coast Autumn into WinterTacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WASolo
2004Andy Goldsworthy: Mountain and Coast Autumn into WinterUlrich Museum of Art, Wichita, KSSolo
2003Works on PaperHaines Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2003Trace EvidenceFrederick R. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, MNGroup
2003Andy Goldsworthy: Three CairnsMuseum of Contemporary Art San Diego - MCASD La Jolla,La Jolla, CASolo
2003Andy Goldsworthy - Mountain and Coast, Autumn into WinterUMMA - The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MISolo
2003Andy Goldsworthy - Solo ShowGalerie Lelong - New York, New York City, NYSolo
2003Andy Goldsworthy - Photographs of his creations from nature - The WilsonCheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, Cheltenham Spa, GloucestershireSolo
2003Hot Summer in the CitySean Kelly Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2002Andy Goldsworthy - Solo ExhibitFrist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TNSolo
2002After the Beginning and Before the End - Instruction DrawingsMIT List Visual Arts Center,Cambridge, MAGroup
2002Les refuges d'art - CairnCentre d'Art, Digne-les-BainsSolo
2002Arid Arcadia: Art of the Flinders RangersArt Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SAGroup
2001ZeitGalerie Springer Berlin, BerlinSolo
2001Andy Goldsworthy - Photographic WorksAbbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, CumbriaSolo
2000La collection photographiqueFRAC Midi-Pyrénées, ToulouseGroup
2000EphemeresMaison Européenne de la Photographie, ParisGroup
2000Ernesto Neto - Andy GoldsworthySite Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NMGroup
1999Contemporary British LandscapeFlowers Galleries - Kingsland Road, LondonGroup
1999Visione Britannica IIIArte Contemporanea, RomeGroup
1999Linhas de Sombra Centro de Arte Moderna - CAM - Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, LisbonGroup
1998Andy Goldsworthy - ArcheMusée d´art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal, QCSolo
1997CairnsMusée Gassendi, Digne-les-BainsSolo
1997Andy Goldsworthy - Sculpter le paysageMusée de l´Elysée, LausanneSolo
1995Andy Goldsworthy: Stone Work in AmericaAspen Art Museum, Aspen, COSolo
1992Andy Goldsworthy: Ice and Snow Drawings & ThrowsFruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, ScotlandSolo
1992Snowball Drawings and The ThrowsCastlefield Gallery, ManchesterSolo
1991Andy Goldsworthy: Sand Leaves - Michigan Dunes, August 1991 Illinois Woods, September 1991Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago, ILSolo
1990Andy Goldsworthy - Sculpture 1976-1990 Inverleith House, Edinburgh, ScotlandSolo