There are works of art that can be neither bought nor sold, neither displayed nor hidden, that can neither be kept nor disappear. Those of Andy Goldsworthy, a Scottish artist who has been working in natural spaces for 20 years, with no other tools than his hands, are some of these works.

More than thirty years ago, French mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot demonstrated that in the irregular and apparently capricious shapes of nature there was a secret harmony, an organising principle that was as complex and precise as geometry. The chaos theory showed that natural phenomena are governed by patterns of subtle and poetic harmonies; a “morphology of the amorphous” with a secret order and a hidden symmetry.

Goldsworthy’s sculptures could be defined as an attempt to impose some order on the apparent chaos of matter in its natural state. And upon the disorder of the world.

His works are dialogues with Nature, not to capture her but to share in her. They are created from ice, stone, wood and leaves and can be found in remote spots, far from the gaze of people: the bank of a lake, an island, a forest… Like nature herself, they are ephemeral. Inspired by primitive art, he uses very simple geometric elements... because through simplicity he wants to express the meaning of human existence, the visible and the invisible. Goldsworthy’s work delves into Man’s ancient fascination with resolving the enigma of his relationship with Nature.

His art, like life, does not survive the passage of time. It disappears with the erosion of the land, the rain, the tides, or because he himself dismantles it once the work has achieved its purpose. Very few people have been able to see it. It only reaches the public by means of photographs, films, maps or drawings, which are displayed in museums and galleries… or sold to private collectors. One of these was a former client of the company for which I worked at that time.

The first time he told me about the map, I didn’t even know who Goldsworthy was. I listened to the story of the auction at which he bought it without too much interest; as far as I was concerned it was just an amusing anecdote from a rich guy fixated with art. But when, years later, I saw some photographs on Goldsworthy’s work in the Arctic, I realised my mistake. It took a long time for me to find a “convincing” reason to ask Mr. X (let’s leave it at that) to show me the map. He must have thought there was some merit in me having tracked him down after so many years on remote Easter Island, where he had settled. Or perhaps it was because he was now very old… and he fancied someone paying attention to him. The fact is that he said yes, though not without warning me in advance that there would probably be nothing left. A lot of time had passed. He asked me to tell him afterwards what I had seen. The map indicated a tiny, little known beach in the north of England.

Following the instructions of the locals, and after walking for more than two hours, I covered every inch of every corner of that precipitous beach until I found the place where the artist had recreated his own personal vision of the world. Its positioning —between two huge rocks— had protected it from the winds and tides. Inexplicably, Goldsworth’s brilliant artistry was almost intact. I went back the following day to take some pictures. And the next. And the next. For a whole week, I visited that beach like a pilgrim. I felt deeply happy; the photos were good. I had captured every colour of that magical place, every texture… it would make magnificent working material. On the last day, the tide rose all of a sudden and —when I realised it— I could no longer get back. It took me a moment to grasp the fact that I couldn’t get out of there on my own. Added to the embarrassment of having to ask someone to come and rescue me was the fear for my life. A very friendly operator explained to me that they were overwhelmed by the storm devastating the area and that if my life was not in danger I should find shelter and wait until it eased up because they were going to take some time... How nice. It was a quirk of fate, unquestionably. I had gone all the way there to research fragility… and the only fragility I found was my own. The hunter caught. During the hours I spent there alone, I though about the importance of a simple action in the order of things. We live in a culture full of contradictions: from the protection of our “environmentally correct” stance, we condemn the exploitation of exhaustible natural resources… while at the same time cheerfully consuming products from an industry that is devastating the ecosystem. Later, when nature pays us back in the same kind, we feel sorry for our bad luck. We are animals of habit, and we have the habit of being animals.

When they finally arrived, Mr. McKenzie had already taken care of me. He was an old fisherman who had seen me every day from the sea. When he saw the storm coming, he assumed that the foreign idiot must still be there and he came —on the old motorbike he used to sell his fish round the villages— to lend me a hand. He couldn’t understand why I had come so far just to see “art”. And I didn’t know how to explain it to him either.