Andy Goldsworthy

Holes / Middleton Woods, Yorkshire / 1 February 1981


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Andy Goldsworthy born 1956
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 393 × 293 mm
Purchased with assistance from the American Patrons of Tate courtesy of If Hummingbird Foundation Inc, Jeanne and Mickey Klein, Mr. and Mrs Joel Mallin and an anonymous donor 2011


Holes / Middleton Woods, Yorkshire / 1 February 1981 1981 is a black and white photograph showing three holes, each inside a larger one, that have been made in a forest floor. The effect is one of irregular concentric rings, getting progressively darker towards the centre as the holes get deeper. Typically, the title of the work describes the object, location and date of the artist’s intervention. Goldsworthy has made holes in natural materials throughout most of his career, and has explained their significance for his work in his publication Hand to Earth:

The black of a hole is like the flame of a fire. The flame makes the energy of fire visible. The black is the earth’s flame – its energy. I used to say I will make no more holes. Now I know I will always make them. I am drawn to them with the same urge I have to look over a cliff edge. It is possible the last work I make will be a hole.
(Goldsworthy 2004, p.24.)

Often categorised as a ‘land artist’, Goldsworthy’s work is frequently linked with that of Richard Long (born 1945) and Hamish Fulton (born 1946) in that it directly engages with the natural landscape. Goldsworthy’s practice encompasses gallery-based sculptures and installations using stone, wood and other natural materials, as well as permanent constructions made outside in the landscape – including earthworks and pieces consisting of dry stone walls – and more ephemeral constructions made using ice, leaves, flower petals, sticks and rocks. Although these are by their nature impermanent, they are documented in the form of photographs and texts.

Goldsworthy has written about the significance of photography in his work, most notably in Hand to Earth, published in 2004:

Taking the photograph is not a casual act. It is very demanding and a balance is kept in which documentation does not interrupt the making. Each work grows, stays, decays – integral parts of a cycle which the photograph shows at its height, 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 in that moment. A drawing or painting would be too defined. The photographs leave the reason and spirit of the work outside.
(Goldsworthy 2004, p.9.)

Further reading
Andy Goldsworthy, Hand to Earth: Andy Goldsworthy Sculpture 1976–1990, London 2004.

Helen Delaney
May 2010

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