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Columns : Art Life - Susan Mackay Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Winter Wonderland
By Susan Mackay
Dec 24, 2007 - 12:48:24 AM

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Andy Goldsworthy is one of the major environmental artists in Britain, He is known for his incredibly beautiful delicate and clever sculptures made entirely out of natural elements.

This cold front is a shock!   Yesterday was beautiful, an impossible fusion of cool air, warm sun and endless blue sky. But today with the grey I am reminded of my home land. The children and I will be returning to Scotland for Christmas.   I am not sure my sun supine body is ready for frigid cold and dark!


However, the anticipation of freezing weather reminds me about the artistic possibilities in a cold climate.


Ms Smilla’s Feeling for Snow By Pete Hoeg, is a beautiful book, in which it is explained that the eskimo language has innumerable words to describe the many different states and nuances of snow. Maybe not a traditional medium for the artist, but snow and ice have been embraced for many years by artists. Not just for the appealing clarity of ice or the subtlty of snow, or even the violent purple of a snow shadow, but as a very practical medium to sculpt and build with.   From restaurants and weddings with divine ice sculptures, swans and the like, crafted lovingly, to Contemporary artists using this medium in a variety of ways.


Andy Goldsworthy is one of the major environmental artists in Britain, He is known for his incredibly beautiful delicate and clever sculptures made entirely out of natural elements.


His work is typically very controlled, aesthetically appealing, well crafted pieces.   Although inevitably affected by the environment in which his sculptures are made, and prey to the inevitably processes of decay, Goldsworthy’s work has such a feeling of well crafted solidity, its hard to recognise that the work will obviously ultimately perish.



The Midsummer Snowball Project
, pushed the boundaries of his art. Moving from the beautifully crafted to a more conceptual approach. Thirteen Large snowballs, packed with various materials, from sheeps wool to pine cones, were placed around London on the longest day of the year—summer! It took 5 days for the snow balls to melt, leaving testomony to their existence in the evidence of displaced pine cones etc.


Using snowballs in the city scape, Goldsworthy uses this juxtaposition to highlight a playful element of nature.   Snowballs being a well known and well recognisable craft to the majority of Brits!   Goldsworthy is also giving the city dwellers, and society as a whole, a gentle reminder of the world of nature—our environment.   They are not ‘just’ snowballs, the snowballs contain gifts, that reference the wider world of nature.   And an oblique reference to the transience and changing nature, of snow/the environment, and our responsibility to it—so easily forgotten in a vast metropolis like London.



It is that very transient nature of snow and ice that makes the art work made from it, so very interesting.   I read in a sculpture forum, artists saying that they did not want to work in a material that was so ephemeral.   To me it adds a potency to the work, its time span IS limited, like life, we are then challenged to enjoy every moment.


There are ice and snow sculpture events in Finland, Russia, Japan, and Canada, where artists are invited to create in different categories, realism or abstract, and dependant on size, tools and number of members in any one team.   The results are spectacular and have become huge shows; people travel all over to witness their wonder.


The snow show is an exciting interdisciplinary collaboration between contemporary artists and architects.   Check out www.thesnowshow.com to witness sublime work, the complete antithesis to Goldsworthy’s snowballs, that are deeply organic, incongruous and remind us of childhood.   The work displayed at the snowshow is sophisticated, elegant and beautiful in a completely magical way.


The colloboration between architects and artists create such an incredible and exciting vision—pushing both to find solutions and imagination within a new, unfamiliar medium.   The world that they create is compelling and I dream of the day cities are designed with such a total consideration to form, aesthetics and imagination.  


If snow and ice seem like unusual media that works in wintry places to create a new genre of tourism, I like to dream of the day when Grand Bahama Island will envision itself in such a way, and use its sand and pine as a medium for artists and architects to come and play on our shores and create fabulous structures of art under the thankful warmth of the sun!


Leading the way on that direction is the nature-honouring works of one of The Bahamas’ own internationally acclaimed artists, Antonius Roberts, whose Sacred Women sculptures of native woods pay homage both to the transformative power of nature as well as the stories of our ancestors. ( www.antoniusroberts.com)


And so, as I make my way to the snowy land of my ancestors, I will be carrying the sunshine of this island with me, and wishing you all a very Happy Christmas!

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