Andy Goldsworthy: Cairn at Penpont, Scotland

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Boddy-Evans, Marion. "Andy Goldsworthy: Cairn at Penpont, Scotland." ThoughtCo, Aug. 31, 2016, thoughtco.com/andy-goldsworthy-cairn-at-penpont-scotland-2578503. Boddy-Evans, Marion. (2016, August 31). Andy Goldsworthy: Cairn at Penpont, Scotland. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/andy-goldsworthy-cairn-at-penpont-scotland-2578503 Boddy-Evans, Marion. "Andy Goldsworthy: Cairn at Penpont, Scotland." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/andy-goldsworthy-cairn-at-penpont-scotland-2578503 (accessed September 20, 2017).
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Andy Goldsworthy Cairn at Penpont, Scotland: Panoramic View

Andy Goldsworthy Penpont Cairn
Image: © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

It's hard to explain how what is basically an egg-shaped heap of sandstone, sitting on top of a green pasture used by cows for grazing, on the outskirts of a tiny village in rural Scotland, can be so powerful. But that's the beauty of Andy Goldsworthy's sculptures: they're deceptively simple.

Penpont is about 14 miles north of Dumfries, in southwestern Scotland. The cairn sits on a hill on the Thornhill side. To get there, head up the A76 from Dumfries, and turn left once you're through the town of Thornhill, where the signpost says Penpont.

I believe sculpture can teach a painter a lot; about form and shape, about using materials, about shadow and light. Even more so a landscape artist, who sources art materials from the environment, who creates with nature. It's far too easy for a painter to be removed from their materials, to not know what makes up the paint they're using.

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Andy Goldsworthy Cairn at Penpont, Scotland: In the Sunshine 1

Andy Goldsworthy Penpont Cairn
Image: © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

It was mid-summer when I visited Andy Goldworthy's cairn at Penpont, a week from the longest day. But the weather was anything but summery; it was raining and cold enough for me to wear a coat and beanie. But for the briefest of moments when I was at the cairn, the sun came out, transforming the experience.

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Andy Goldsworthy Cairn at Penpont, Scotland: In the Sunshine 2

Andy Goldsworthy Penpont Cairn
Image: © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

The cairn is made from local red sandstone, but it's amazing how the color of it changes with the light. It can vary from bland, grayish to brilliant red. I really wished I'd had the time to spend a whole day at the cairn, to see it at sunrise and at sunset, to watch its shadow move.

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Andy Goldsworthy Cairn at Penpont, Scotland: Dark Rain Clouds

Andy Goldsworthy Penpont Cairn
Image: © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

When the rain clouds gathered again, blocking out the light, the cairn became a silhouetted sentinel on the hill, watching out over the landscape and the people who live there.

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Andy Goldsworthy Cairn at Penpont, Scotland: The Sentinel

Andy Goldsworthy Penpont Cairn
Image: © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

I don't know how long the cairn will stand for, but it gave the feeling of wanting to be there for centuries. I hope it will, until one day a cow will scratch up against it one time too many....

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Andy Goldsworthy Cairn at Penpont, Scotland: My Personal Experience

Andy Goldsworthy Penpont Cairn
Image: © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

I'm not a tree-hugger, so I was surprised to find myself wanting to hug the cairn. My husband Alistair, who took the photo, had the opposite reaction. He said he found the cairn's energy too powerful, too hard to touch even, never mind hug. As far as I know, no-one else was around, but even if there was, I'm sure locals must be used to strangers doing odd things at the cairn.

More by Andy Goldworthy:
For some photos of a remarkable dry-stone wall that wanders around, take a look at Stone River by Andy Goldworthy. The photos were taken by About's Geology Guide Andrew Alden.