Plant art & land art: when nature puts itself to work

07 November 2018  |   0 Comments   |    |  

Snow arch , Andy Goldworthy, 1984

Ha! flowers, butterflies, the fresh air of nature... This is a totally bucolic post about a few land art artists who work in harmony with the beautiful green to delight our eyes in the most ecological way possible.

Land Art, the origins

Land Art - or Earthwork - was born in the late 1960s in the United States as a response to the increasing commercialisation of art. A number of artists, including Robert Smithson, who laid the foundations in his essay The Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects, decided to question the relationship between art and money, and to break away from the framework restricting the work to the gallery. Art should no longer have a monetary value, nor be reserved for an elite in a closed space. These artists are returning to nature to express themselves without limits, creating using natural materials that are often found on site.

In comparison, today's street art is more or less in the same vein. And when you see that a shredded Banksy painting is worth more than its intact version, you think that we have a long way to go. The advantage of Land Art is that it is destined to disappear, which makes it a happening in the more or less long term. Unlike Banksy's happening, which increased the value of his work despite the artist's wishes, here there is no sense in grabbing yellowed leaves or buying a cut-out mountain block. Nature is an integral part of the setting and the meaning of the work. It is no longer simply represented, but becomes a work in its own right.

These inseparable works are integrated into a natural environment to invite passers-by to observe art in nature, but also the overall work of Nature itself. As the artist Nancy Holt, to whom we owe including Sun Tunnels, choosing these sites as places where people can experiment and see, that's the job. The Land Artist creates in and with Nature, for humans.

Manufactured or hand-made

These works are sometimes monumental, made using machines that cut and move tonnes of stone, as in Michael Heizer's Double Negative and Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (left)... or by adding manufactured materials to the landscape, as in The Lightning Field (by Walter de Maria, right) with poles to invite lightning, Surrounded Islands (by Christo, below, in pink), or Sun Tunnels (lower).

Sun Tunnels (1973-76) by Nancy Holt is an example of an in situ installation of concrete tunnels which are perforated according to constellations and positioned to show sunrise and sunset at the solstices. It's an industrial work, yet well and truly qualified as Land Art, which allows the traveller to better appreciate the landscape.

These works can also be on a human scale, created in a few seconds in a single throw, or in several hours, as in the work ofAndy Goldworthy. Nature then evolves with these installations. This Land Artist creates a trace on the landscape and sublimates it before it disappears. The work is meditative and meticulous. Here are a few examples made with ice or snow that melted a few moments after the photo was taken.

Current land art

Today, other artists have taken up the torch. There are certainly a lot, but we wanted to show you the work of two of them.

Ludovic Fesson works in the style of Goldworthy. We already told you about him in this article from 2013. He uses natural elements to create harmonious shapes that play with the natural elements.

In another style we have not seen before, Geoffroy Mottard covers the statues with flower ornaments. It's a poetic way of adding a bit of colour to the city, dressing up these cold bodies and offering a new look at our urban environment! "Street art" becoming land art, or the reverse?

Given the ephemeral character of these works, one wonders how these artists manage to make a living from their art. One imagines that what "remains" can be sold, like photos or films. Or that these artists are commissioned to work in situ in a green space. In the 70s, it seems that land art was more a demand than a financial tool.

But in the end, perhaps this type of art doesn't exist to be sold, but to be experienced. And that's precisely what makes it so powerful.

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