To define Andy Goldsworthy as a “landscape artist” may not be inaccurate, but it most certainly is inadequate.
“Luminous” and “ravishingly beautiful,” were among the descriptions of Goldsworthy’s art in Thomas Riedelsheimer’s earlier film River and Tides. Now, 16 years later, Leaning Into The Wind: Andy Goldsworthy, the filmmaker’s sequel (or more accurately, extension) to that film records the British artist—and Holly, his daughter and assistant—working in the forests and dales of the artist’s home landscape in southern Scotland, the lush jungles of Gabon, Spain, urban settings such as Edinburgh and San Francisco, Brazil, and the Luberon in Provence. Goldsworthy, who was made an OBE in 2000, creates site-specific art—variously installation, repurposing, or kinetic—using the most mundane of nature’s resources including mud, leaves, bark, rocks, bracken, clay, sheep, and his own body. Whether “painting” his hands with red or gold leaves, using heavy machinery to cleave massive boulders to make henges or “landscape beds”, or “swimming” through a hedgerow thicket, Goldsworthy’s art is a reminder that not all art is made to be owned (indeed, it’s a refreshing antidote to the cult of commodification), but it is neither fatuously arcane nor archly clever— it is a thoughtful, provocative, and fascinating meditation on what the artist calls “the permanence of temporary objects and the temporality of permanent objects”. This film not only gives us intoxicating access into a uniquely creative mind, it is also a kind of spiritual experience.
In a real sense film is the ideal medium for capturing Goldsworthy’s process and his more ephemeral work, and Riedelsheimer’s direction, editing, and cinematography (he operates the camera himself) suggest that his may be the ideal sensibility for conveying both the substance and manner of this unusual artistic journey. The occasional music, again by Fred Frith, is also wonderfully compatible, never distracting or intrusive, and serves the unfolding sense of discovery and surprise. One of the most engaging aspects of the film—and inherent to Goldsworthy’s vision—is its unhurried, at times hypnotic, focus. There are only two or three visual sequences in the 93-minute exploration that seem overlong, and about the same number of instances in which Goldsworthy’s voiceovers or on-camera narration become redundant or repetitive. Taken as a whole Leaning Into The Wind is delightful and at times profound. Viewers are likely to find that it fulfills the artist’s own approach to living: “You can walk on the path, or you can go through the hedge”.
Marvelous and enlarging, Leaning Into The Wind: Andy Goldsworthy is restrained in form but visually seductive—at its essence a meditative study in looking and seeing, and despite a very few missteps here and there it is powerful enough actually to alter, at least in some degree or quality, the way a viewer looks and sees. It’s a film about the artist’s, particularly Goldsworthy’s, but in a larger sense our human capacity for yearning—to understand, join, become a part—and for discovering, in epiphanic moments, the delicate balance between accepting and asserting one’s place in the natural scheme of things.
Like Goldsworthy’s idea of art, the film lets us step off the path at least for a period of time and encourages us to contemplate new ways of being in the world.
– Hadley Hury