Andy Goldsorthy takes part in Ryedale Folk Museum project on pandemic’s art impact

Artists Andy Goldsworthy (left) and Kane Cunningham at Southfield House for their collaboration with Ryedale Folk Museum. All pictures: Tony Bartholomew

SCULPTOR Andy Goldsworthy will be among six artists collaborating with Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole, to explore the impact of the pandemic on artists and their creative practice.

Goldsworthy will feature in a series of videos, created by Scarborough landscape painter Kane Cunningham for sharing in May and June, that will include photographer Joe Cornish, landscape painter Peter Hicks, photographer Tessa Bunney, sculptor Peter Coates and painter Francesca Simon too.

The collaboration will culminate in an open exhibition in September, bringing together professionals, amateurs and hobby artists in response to the northern landscape.

Cheshire-born sculptor and land artist Goldsworthy specialises in site-specific installations involving nature and the passage of time.

His latest work, Southfield House, has been developed on the North York Moors from conditions created by the pandemic and forms part of Goldsworthy’s quest to explore the environment through natural materials.

“It was conceived during lockdown and made between lockdowns,” says Goldsworthy, 64. “I wanted to make something during that period that has that sense of being uplifting,” he says. “The work is now connected to that moment in time.”

Kane Cunningham, left, and Andy Goldsworthy on the North York Moors

Funded by Arts Council England, the Ryedale Folk Museum project “grew out of a strong awareness of the lack of access to the natural environment in adherence to the Government’s Stay Home message at the height of the pandemic”.

Like everyone else, artists have found their travel restricted during the series of three lockdowns, hence museum director Jennifer Smith says: “At its heart, the project is an opportunity for artists to share their experiences and to encourage others who may have seen significant changes to their output because of Covid-19.

“Through Kane Cunningham’s films, we are seeing honest and open discussions about the challenges – and, sometimes, the opportunities – faced by the artistic community.

“Situated within the North York Moors National Park, we needed only to look outside the museum window to realise that there was nobody here during lockdown. One question that interested us was what impact that was having on artists who respond directly to the landscape and who make their living from that inspiration.”

The partnership between the museum and Cunningham, founder and co-director of Scarborough’s Festival of Big Ideas By The Sea, was a natural one.

“For 20 years, I’ve travelled from Scarborough to St Bees, coast to coast,” says Cunningham, whose studio is in the Old Parcels Office at Scarborough railway station. “In a normal year, my art takes me over hill and dale and across mountain pathways to find the perfect view.”

Andy Goldsworthy at Southfield House for the Ryedale Folk Museum project exploring the impact of the pandemic on artists and their creative practice

The sense of loss during lockdown led to Cunningham’s desire to reach out to others on this theme: “I felt the need to discover more about the landscape and what it means to me and other artists in these challenging times,” he says. “Has it changed the way they think about their work? Has it changed the way they think about the landscape?”

Ryedale Folk Museum hopes that sharing the contemplations of assorted artists will inspire people to create new work or to reflect on a piece created since the start of the pandemic, to feature in the open exhibition of 2D and 3D work from September.

The submissions window will be open from this week to June 30, whereupon works for the exhibition will be selected by a panel that will include Cunningham, Joe Cornish and ceramic artist Layla Khoo.

In addition, artists and other creative practitioners, of any art form, are invited to send their own brief film clips – less than a minute long – to be shared on social media, responding to the question: “How has your creative practice changed in the past 12 months?”.

Full details can be found on the museum’s website: ryedalefolkmuseum.co.uk/art-gallery/

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