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Sand Sculptures: Ephemeral art with a clear message

The Spanish artist Andoni Bastarrika creates lifelike sand sculptures on a northern spanish beach.
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by Kristin Frauenhoffer

We all have these childhood memories: sitting on the beach for hours and building sand castles, dams and other „artwork“ out of sand. The spanish artist Andoni Bastarrika has perfected modelling with sand and creates lifelike sand sculptures. Much to the delight of the visitors of Zarauz beach in Northern Spain.

It all started in 2010 when Andoni Bastarrika sat on his homeland beach in Basque Country with his two daughters. Suddenly a kind of inner inspiration took him and he started forming sand with his hands. Without consciously knowing what would become of this form, Andoni continued. His hands seemed to work independently while his head was somehow switched off. „ In the end, a mermaid of sand lay there on the beach and I had discovered something in me that came to me like a gift“, he says.

As natural and lifelike as if they could come to life at any moment

It takes Andoni Bastarrika 6 to 8 hours to create this dog (photo: private)

He followed this vocation and today – 10 years later – he has become a master of sand sculptures. He has specialised in animals. Whether dogs, elephants, crocodiles or horses: Andoni’s works of art look so close to nature and life as if they could come to life at any moment. According to Andoni, when modelling, the first step is always to find a certain expression that makes his sand sculptures look alive. Once he has found it, he works on the details with a pointed stick and a feather. He achieves the different colours in his works with ashes, coal dust and stone powder. Other materials found on the beach, such as shells and driftwood, are also used.

A clear message on animal welfare: respect is most important

But Andoni’s sand art works are not just beautiful to look at. Behind the art there is also a clear message about animal welfare. „We should not just protect animals, we should respect them. We can learn a lot from them. They are free spirits and always authentic. Dealing with them is a way for us humans to reconnect with nature,“ Andoni explains the background to his work. For him it is therefore unacceptable to chain animals or even lock them up.

This work is intended to draw attention to the pollution of the seas. (photo: private)

Therefore he always shows his sand animals in freedom, without a chain or collar. This nudity is a form of freedom that people have lost, says Andoni. In that way he wants to encourage the viewer to reflect on their behavior.

Individual grains of sand combine to form something unique

For the Spanish artist, working with sand is symbolic of a peaceful coexistence of all humans in society. „For a sand sculpture to hold, many grains of sand must unite. The water holds them together, but every single grain is individual and unique. When the wind comes and everything dries, the individual grains fly in all directions and the sculpture dissolves,“ explains Andoni Bastarrika. For him and for us humans, this is the way to create a world of beauty and community. Working together to create something, but without losing our own individuality. And then, when the time has come, to break up and reconnect.

The crocodile looks dangerous – fortunately it’s not! (photo: private)
Many grains of sand come together to form this great horse – one of Andoni’s favourite artworks. It takes him two days. (photo: private)

A huge octopus on the beach. The suction cups are made of shells. (photo: private)


More images of the ephemeral art of Andoni Bastarrika can be found on Instagram or Facebook.


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