“Rivers and Tides” (or how to understand the intangible) is a wonderful film about the British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy and his work.

Anette Olsen
Script writer, webfilm producer in Safran Film and journalist based in Denmark. Former editor of DOX Magazine (2001-02 and 2004-05).

Goldsworthy works and creates in harmony with the environment using natural materials. Some of his sculptures are ephemeral and not meant to last. These works of breathtaking beauty exist in nature until wind, water, heat or cold destroys them. Some ‘pieces’ disintegrate almost immediately like the balls of red clay that Goldsworthy throws into a waterfall creating a ‘bloody’, foamy stream. Or the icicle-formation that will relentlessly melt in the sun.

“The very thing that brought it to life will bring about its death,” says Goldsworthy about the process that makes his art ephemeral. But this is part of the artistic game of rearranging nature into works of art that do not really belong in galleries or museums. They cannot be bought or purchased. Some of Goldsworthy’s other works are more resilient and meant to last like the ‘slaloming’ fence built through the woods, between the trees and across the countryside.

RIVERS AND TIDES
RIVERS AND TIDES

Goldsworthy tries to explain what motivates him to work in often rough conditions; exposed to cold wind or with his fingers in icy water only to see his work disappear afterwards. The artist’s commentary and reflections on his work are necessary but the rest of the time the works of art stand for themselves, expressing the cycle of life and death and rebirth. For Goldsworthy, seeing and understanding nature is a way of renewing our links with the earth.

In the midst of all this beauty and reflections of what art is, where it begins and ends, the scenes of Goldsworthy with his family in their house in Scotland don’t fit in so well. The filmmaker presents the family members too late, opening up a new chapter of the artist’s life that only reveals little about what Goldsworthy is like in his private surroundings, how he functions with his family and how they fit into his work. There is little point in introducing family members unless the relationship between artist and family is developed a little further.

RIVERS AND TIDES
RIVERS AND TIDES

But Riedelsheimer succeeds in representing Goldsworthy’s art in time, in a fluid pace that responds to the poetry of the works. Floating ‘worms’ of green leaves, sewn together with grass or the amazing egg-shaped sculptures of slate resting on a beach at low tide waiting for the river to topple this manmade effort are images of great beauty. And fortunately for the viewer, they eternalize on celluloid what would otherwise be ephemeral.

 


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