What is land art and is it eco-friendly?

Contemporary artists are now experimenting with ideas inspired by ecology

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By Asmita Sarkar

land art

Forget everything you know about traditional forms of art. Visiting a historical museum, marveling at the impressive architecture, admiring old oil paintings of royalty and marble sculptures, is only a very limited part of what you can experience through art.

New contemporary artists are coming up with fresh ideas and innovative ways to change the public’s perception of the strange world of fine art or “high art” as some people will have it.

Contemporary artists are experimenting with ideas inspired by ecology, working in rural areas, using recyclable materials and displaying their art in environmentally friendly way so the audience appreciate nature and its what it has to offer.

Artists working with land and environment sometimes make sculptures out of living trees, collect seashells, or make monuments out of naturally occurring land structures. The public may need to go deep inside a forest or a virgin territory to appreciate the art work.

land art
A tribute to Picasso and cubism from the air. A clear allegory of life cycles.

Just the experience of going and seeing the art work is itself an eco-friendly experience. The aesthetic sensibility arising from this experience belongs to the art-movement known as Relational Aesthetics (a term coined by a French theorist named Nicolas Bourriaud).

The first step in conservation is a genuine love for nature. Artists have always inspired by nature, but a new genre of ecological artists have married the aesthetics of art with activism. These natural works exist outside of the traditional art market and they are green because they leave a minimum carbon footprint.


In this article we’ll examine closely one artist, Andy Goldsworthy (born 26 July 1956). He is a British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist producing site-specific sculpture and land art in natural urban settings. Son of a mathematician, his sculptures are precise and orderly. Strikingly they are made out of perishable materials like leaves, living trees, or traces on the earth.

Most of his works last only for a few days or months. For him nature is a sort of collaborator and he uses its gifts to create a world of mystery, wonder and unparalleled beauty.

When nature runs its course, only the photographs of his works remain. When presenting his art Andy talks about the importance of touch, the transient passage of time and the weather that surrounds us. In his own words “The weather—rain, sun, snow, hail, calm—is that external space made visible. When I touch a rock, I am touching and working the space around it. It is not independent of its surroundings and the way it sits tells how it came to be there.”

Let’s have a look at how his works come to life. One of his works, named Iris Leaves with Rowan Berries, is composed of green long iris leaves floating in dark still pond.

These leaves take the form of Abstract grids and with red cherries floating inside these grids. These floating leaves look like a natural Mondrian. The shadow of trees and sky, the natural colors all are part of the work.

The same goes for another of his works -“Icicle Star, joined with saliva.”

Just as the name suggests, it’s a star made out of Icicle and installed in a snow coverd part of a hill.

We will further explore original examples of land art and more or less known artists: this is a concept that keeps inspiring and surprising us time after time, just as nature does!

And you, are you inspired yet?

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