April 2, 2013

Rivers and Tides: Art Worth the Time

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Memories of childhood bring us back to a realm of innocence: We acted on instinct, allowing creativity to steer our still-developing minds.  Artist Andy Goldsworthy embodies the essence of this notion by using nature to intuitively construct art.

The film,“Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working With Time,” directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer, opened in San Francisco in mid-2002, eventually making its way around the film-festival circuit. The movie guides its audience through Goldsworthy’s art-making process, revealing how personal connections to nature, family and life are interwoven in his creations.

Although the focus is on art, this film is really about living in the moment — a concept that Andy gracefully embraces through his acceptance of failure: “Ideas must be put to the test,” he says. “That’s why we make things, otherwise they would be no more than ideas.”  His concept of art is rooted in a deep connection to nature, one that can only be made through patience and time spent acquainting oneself to its beauties.

There cannot exist a word, style, or phrase that describes his art. Instead, one can peer into the past in order to understand the feelings that go into his work. At some point in our lives, we have made art as Andy does, whether it be shaping sticks and stones to create an architectural object, or sculpting a sandcastle on the beach.

His creations come straight from the heart; it is magnificent to watch as a man of his age takes absolute joy in the simplest aspects of life, as only a child would.  He offers an alternative way of life through his work — one in which our connection to nature takes precedence over anything else.

Andy relishes solitude, for it provides him the opportunity to truly focus in on the landscape that will ultimately behold his impending creations. “For me, looking, touching, material, place and form are all inseparable from the resulting work.  It is difficult to say where one stops and one begins.”  Though an artist in every sense, Goldsworthy recognizes the exploration of his surroundings as a crucial part of the artistic process, thus producing a world in which reality and art are one in the same.

This reality is deeply rooted in the cycle of life. Andy fabricates his creations as a gift to the Earth, acknowledging that “the very thing that brought the thing to be is the thing that will cause its death.” He appreciates the flow of life and death, respecting the destruction of his art as a natural, and nonetheless beautiful, inevitability.

Thus, it is not necessary to separate art and life, for Andy’s imagination propels his yearning to re-define our planet as a realm for creation. His work serves as an inspiration, not only to create, but also to keep a sense of awareness of how fortunate we are to live on a planet so beautiful and majestic: “I know that the world does not need me, but I certainly need it.”  For Andy, art and earth are intertwined.

In perusing art galleries, it is difficult to make interpretations of art without having a solid idea of its context.  Yet Andy embraces the challenge of make something out of seemingly nothing — that is all that we need to know in order to relate to him. The film documents his experimentations, following his implementation of colors, shapes and the textures of natural objects like sticks, leaves and stones in order to see what works and what doesn’t.  On numerous occasions, Andy fails, yielding a visible sense of frustration. Yet, he demonstrates resilience upon failure, recognizing that success comes as a result of an eagerness to push the limits of what seems improbable.

It would be a disservice to attempt to explain the marvel of his creations, so I will instead suggest checking out this film. In the film, director, photographer and editor of Rivers and Tides, German filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer, accompanies Goldsworthy to his home in Penpont, Scotland, where he provides a glimpse into quality time Goldsworthy spends with his family. The two, Riedelsheimer and Goldsworthy, also venture to a museum in the south of France and to an old stonewall in Canada, which Goldsworthy wants to recreate in his own fashion.  Though a traveler, Andy recognizes Penpont as his favorite place to work, stating: “It is impossible to truly understand a place without having spent years there.”

The result is beautiful.  Through shots of rolling hills and gorgeous forestry, Riedelsheimer does a magnificent job of bringing the landscapes to life and presenting a vision of the breathtaking platform for Andy’s art. Goldsworthy is a truly happy man; someone who is at peace with himself, and with nature.  We could all learn a little something from Andy Goldsworthy.

Rivers and Tides plays tonight at Cornell Cinema.

Original Author: Scott Goldberg