Friday, June 28, 2013

Some thoughts about creating land art

Land Art is about working with the landscape, within the landscape. It's about using the elements available to you and arranging, changing and complimenting these in a way that creates harmony and enhances the beauty and inherent unique qualities of the site. It's a conversation between artist and nature, a dance and interplay that relies on understanding and respect.

The landscape is the land artist's canvas, and the leaves, rocks, sand, trees, and plants his/her tools. The sky, earth, forests, beaches and glens are the studio spaces, while the wind, sun, water and insects are companions and co-creators. Just as with 'traditional' sculpture you thus have subtractive as well as additive techniques.

Taking away involves:

  • Raking, clearing or sweeping sand, leaves, pebbles or debris
  • Carving, cutting, scraping into bark, stone or other surfaces
  • Scooping or digging into sand or earth

Beach Calligraphy by Andrew van der Merwe

Strijdom van der Merwe -

Adding involves:

  • wrapping branches, trees or rocks 
  • stacking boulders and slate,
  • building structures and forms
  • moving things from one place to another
  • bringing in foreign materials to enhance what's already there

Janet Botes |

'Los' by Angus Taylor. Site_Specific 2011 Land Art Event Plettenberg Bay, South Africa.  Photograph by Elizabeth Olivier-Kahlau. Image from

Strijdom van der Merwe |

Similarly land artists also make use of art & design elements, particularly:

  • contrast
  • colour
  • rhythm and repetition
  • line
  • shape
  • emphasis/focus
  • composition

That's all for today, but make sure to keep an eye on the Site_Specific Facebook Page for updates and wonderful two-question artist interviews, as we get closer to the second International Land Art Biennale, in Plettenberg Bay 10-17 August 2013!


  1. But it does not include defacing...

    As done by a "famous" local calligrapher...

    1. Hi Martin, I agree with you. In my opinion Land Art is done with absolute respect and compassion to nature and all living beings. It's not done to 'leave' a mark, but rather emphasizes a transient, fleeting moment.

      In my own Land Art work the artwork or "dialogue" between myself and the landscape becomes invisible to others once nature fully reclaims the space, blows it away, washes it away with rain. The artwork is documented through video, photography, drawing and/or painting - a memory rather than stain on the landscape.

      Maybe the artist could be encouraged or asked to expand on his/her artwork by planting new trees to assist the boundlessness of nature?