There’s a few points which following my tutor’s feedback on the essay I have considered and will look to incorporate in a more fluid form into my essay.
Questions/Viewpoints to add into altered essay:
My tutor mentioned his work was in the same vein of romantic works – Is his work pastoral or idyllic, like the romantic paintings and early landscape photography? Link to Graham Clarke’s The photograph chapter on Landscape.
Graham Clarke talks about British Landscape photography as a form of controlling the landscape (for reference p.55), “The photograph allowed the land to be controlled, visually at least – to be scaled and ordered”. It makes me wonder about the element of control in Goldsworthy’s photographs. It’s another layer of man-made control and order, he constructs the sculptures from natural elements, but he is then adding another layer of man made alteration with the use of the camera to not just capture but frame our view of his ephemeral sculptures.
The man-made construction of his ‘natural works’ is somewhat a contradiction or juxtaposition of ideas: especially in sheep throws where he himself is visible in the photograph – its clear he is altering and in charge of the landscape not so natural as he makes pains to claim?
Issue of major income coming from photographs Goldsworthy publishes in coffee table style books – this is mentioned in the Guardian interview here. I mention it because it adds a further complexity to the debate of whether or not the photographs are art in themselves. It is the sale of such books that forms a major part of income (my tutor pointed this out to me). This reminds me of Grayson Perry’s series of Reith Lectures which formed the basis for his book ‘Playing to the Gallery’.
At some point during the lectures he comes up with boundaries or markers to help us decide what art is and one of these is about whether or not the art work is deemed sell-able or has a monetary value. If that is a marker for something being art then Goldsworthy’s photographs are art works. As the Artist has control over his works, presumably Goldsworthy could refuse to sell the photographs, citing that they were not the art work but rather a reference point or a tool to make the actual work accessible to a wider audience (than himself and any assistants!). But he does sell the photographs, as objects but also as photo-books with length text explanations.
My tutor mentioned the use of text alongside his photographs as worth exploring – I agree with her in that it seems like another form of shaping our interaction with his work. He goes to great lengths to explain his process, the weather that shaped his work, his own feelings towards it, the history of the place etc. After reading these things it’s impossible not to see the themes of place and time within his work, he’s presented those things to us. I wonder what conclusion we would come to if we presented just with the pictures, no accompanying information? I’m also beginning to see how carefully constructed the interaction with Goldsworthy’s ephemeral pieces is, there’s the carefully framed photographs, the in-depth textual explanations or observations. It’s as if these temporary works are being embalmed or enshrined for the purposes of preservation. But I think in the effort to preserve the work can become lost, what we have instead is an artefact.