Land Art uses natural substances such as rocks and soil as its raw materials to create forms intended to complement the landscape around them. The movement was particularly prevalent in the United States in the 1960’s as artists reacted against the destruction of the countryside through sprawling urbanisation and industrialisation.
One of the best-known modern Land Artists is Andy Goldsworthy. He is a Cheshire-born sculptor, photographer and environmentalist now living and working in south west Scotland. Goldsworthy spent his youth working as a farm labourer before studying fine art for his Bachelor of Arts at Preston Polytechnic in the 1970’s. He moved to Cumbria and later to Langholm in Dumfries & Galloway before settling at Penpont.
Goldsworthy revels in the fact that each work of art grows, stays and eventually decays in the natural environment. He also believes that photography plays a significant part in his work by recording the works of art at various stages, capturing them at their peak before they start to decay. He uses a huge variety of materials including icicles, leaves, mud, pinecones, stones and twigs. This inevitably means that some of his work has a very short lifespan as natural forces take over.
Goldsworthy is credited as being the founder of modern rock balancing with a number of his artworks apparently defying gravity. He tries to do as much as he can with his bare hands but some of his more ambitious projects have required the use of machine tools. In creating “Roof”, Goldsworthy employed the services of five dry-stone wallers to give the structure some stability.
He has created a series of three arches, known as the Striding Arches, around the hills of Cairnhead. The arches are linked by the fact that whichever arch you visit, you will still be able to see the other two. When visitors reach the top of the hills they will find the large sandstone arches built into the stunning landscape. Cairnhead is deep in the Southern Uplands and Goldsworthy has created another arch from a disused farm building known as The Byre. The project is a collaboration between the artist and Cairnhead Community Forest Trust intended to attract the public to use and benefit from the beautiful surroundings. Work began in 2002 the local community and a wide range of local and national organisations involved from the outset.
Each arch stands just under four metres high and spans around seven metres. Thirty-one blocks of hand-dressed red sandstone weighing 27 tons were required to make each one. Goldsworthy has created similar arches in Canada, the United States and New Zealand, inspired by the travels of emigrating Scots over the last 200 years or more.