Each of the 20 or so 'drawings' exhibited at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh represents the residue of a melted snowball or icicle. Working in Cumbria and near his home in Dumfriesshire, Goldsworthy went about gathering fallen snow and chunks of ice last winter, into which he mixed ground rock, berries and twigs. He then made a snowball or ice-pack, and left it in his studio to melt on a piece of paper. The resultant effect is a delicate wash of watermarks, mixed with bright rivulets of rock and elderberries. Goldsworthy, like Mary Lemley, was content to set up the process and then let nature do the rest. 'I just began the act,' he said, 'I didn't dictate where the water ran.'
Each drawing reveals a close association with the spot where the raw materials were gathered; local stone, mixed with local snow, leaving a print of the land itself. Working to capture the spirit of a landscape totally formed by glaciation, Goldsworthy feels this was appropriate. 'I see the melted snow as actually drawing the land. The snowballs became the place; they depict a landscape which was itself formed by the action of water.'
As with all his work, the physical effect of the drawings gives rise to reflections on their construction. 'You can't but look at the countryside around Cumbria or Dumfries without getting an idea of the seasons and the lives that have flowed through it, of the transience of the place. Nature is all about change, fleetingness, and melting; and so I made melted water draw the landscape.'
He became entranced by the effect of melting snow. 'There's so much vigour in it, even when there's just a tiny bit left. Then, like the flicker of a flame, it just goes out. Just like a candle.'
Although he was directly inspired to work with frozen water following his months in the Arctic, Goldsworthy has always been intrigued by the dynamism of water; as an art student at Preston Polytechnic, he spent most of his three years on Morecambe Beach, producing drawings which existed only until the next high tide. Yet nowadays, rather than producing work doomed to be wiped out by water, Goldsworthy's show testifies to the element's very presence.
'The rock I had mixed into the snow began to flow across the paper as the snowball melted . . . You suddenly realise that everything flows, even the land. But just at a slower rate.'
'Ice and Snow Drawings' is at the Fruitmarket Gallery, 29 Market Street, Edinburgh until 12 September. Closed Mondays.Reuse content