Review: Land Art exploration fits the Warwick Arts Centre gallery like a glove

Andy Goldsworthy art included in the Mead Gallery exhibition.Andy Goldsworthy art included in the Mead Gallery exhibition.
Andy Goldsworthy art included in the Mead Gallery exhibition.
Uncommon Ground: Land Art, Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre. On until March 8.

In the 1960’s and 70’s, sculptors on both sides of the Atlantic began to explore the possibility of making subtle or dramatic landscape interventions that exploited the sculptural potential of the great outdoors. The Brits worked more in harmony with nature, carefully altering things here and there to make a telling image. The Americans meanwhile had other notions, calling in the JCBs to give their wide open spaces a more aesthetically dramatic makeover.

The key figures of the British persuasion are all included in a show that fits the Mead like a glove. After a contemplative first gallery in which personal journeyings through the landscape are featured, the space opens up dramatically to reveal Anthony Gormley’s 1960s sets of cunningly reorganised timber and John Nash’s trio of spindly tree-trunks that seem to multiply as they rise.

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Photography is an important and often a crucial element in much of the work. The impact of Andy Goldsworthy’s Forked Twigs in Water and Richard Long’s Line Made by Walking depends on it because without the photographic record the case for the artistic merit of the work could not be established.

The movement itself didn’t collapse. It simply morphed into other things. Would we, for instance have those silent witnesses on Formby beach if Anthony Gormley hadn’t taken to the forest in his younger days, or Bruce McLean’s giant mural in the foyer of Coventry Hospital if he hadn’t floated great wads of freshly painted canvas down a river in his younger days? Possibly not.

Peter McCarthy

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