But is it art?

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This uprooted tree, seen from beneath, has a sculptural beauty. But is it art?

I was at Jupiter Artland over the weekend, a sculpture park near Edinburgh. There are many big name artists represented such as Kapoor, Goldsworthy, Gormley and more. The work is all designed specifically for the park and is sympathetic to the landscape of the Jacobean manor house.

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Cells of Life by Charles Jencks

But this isn’t an art blog, so why am I mentioning it? Well, it’s that tree root above. You could sculpt that. Well, I couldn’t but a talented sculptor could. Which would make it art. But as a naturally occurring feature shaped by biology and the elements, it is not art. Should it be?

I’ve certainly heard people talk about nature as an artist, but I have to say my answer is “No”. The word “art” means a work of practical skill. That means something that is just naturally occurring isn’t art.

Stone Coppice by Andy Goldsworthy

Stone Coppice by Andy Goldsworthy

But what about this? Here we have natural rocks placed in naturally growing trees. The work will develop as the trees grow and envelope the stone. So is there ‘art’ there?

It’s a fascinating question. The practical skill here is in seeing the future of the piece as things grow, in having the vision to create it in the first place. It’s natural elements set artificially (same derivation as ‘art’ of course), so there is indeed ‘art’.

It’s not the only place where natural elements produce the artwork. Anya Gallaccio’s “The Light Pours Out of Me” makes use of obsidian and amethyst to create a crystalline grotto.

Obsidian

Obsidian

Amethyst

Amethyst

Even when there is obvious sculptural skill, as in Antony Gormley’s “Firmament”, it can appear a natural part of the landscape.

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So what, ultimately, is my point here? There is beauty in nature, of that there is no doubt. But there is no artistry as artistry is ultimately artificial no matter what artifice is employed. I think that clears it up…

David


p.s. These don’t add anything to my point, but I wanted you to see them.

Laura Ford’s “Weeping Girls” puts five faceless girls into the landscape, an innocent game that feels to have taken on a sinister edge. Five pieces of “unnecessary drama” to quote the artist.

They may feel like extracts from a horror movie, but I loved them and felt there was a melancholy and elemental aspect to them.

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I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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