Film Review: Leaning Into the Wind (2018)
Directed by: Thomas Riedelsheimer
Review by: Belle McIntyre
Anyone who has ever gazed in wonder at the ephemeral and fragile work of British artist, Andy Goldsworthy would have had to wonder at the imagination of the person who had conceived of this work as well as the process of executing pieces of such intricacy and transience. Andy Goldsworthy’s muse is the natural world and he has observed, scrupulously investigated, manipulated and emulated it in a dizzying variety of ways. It is also his medium. He goes into nature and using whatever is on hand, reshapes it in ways so harmonious that it is sometimes possible to miss. Some of his work could be mistaken for the handiwork of a mischievous woodland sprite or an overactive bowerbird. He works with twigs, branches, leaves, stones, earth, water and ice. Mostly, they are not built to last. That is part of his point. They are a part of nature and made in collaboration with nature which involves growth and decay.
Thomas Riedelsheimer made the first documentary about Goldsworthy, Rivers and Tides, sixteen years ago. It was a rapturously beautiful revelation for many who were not familiar with the artist’s work. This film is a continuation of sorts, with the camera following the artist as he meanders through the places which inspire him in various countries and the sites of his creations. He speaks eloquently and knowledgeably about the structure of the natural world which inspires him and fuels his creative endeavors. We also observe him in the creative process in the field working with his daughter Holly who has signed on as his assistant. They do painstaking constructions using delicate materials like twigs and leaves, chosen for their color. Sycamore is a particular favorite for its vibrant yellow color in the fall. Goldsworthy uses it like other artists use paint. Only in his case, he waits for the leaves to fall off the trees. His credo is to “do no harm” He has to do without when the sycamore leaves are green and alive. The majority of his work is designed with disintegration as an integral part. It is the nature of things, after all. Transience is the essence.
His stone works are quite a different story, in some ways the polar opposite.They are so solid and heavy and seem extremely permanent, almost elemental. To make them requires heavy, noisy cutting and drilling equipment to carve, shape and move the stones. They also require crews and are the opposite of meditative in their creation. Nonetheless, they feel organic to their settings. Since most of Goldsworthy’s work is either site specific or transitory, it has been largely experienced in photographs, books or films. Goldsworthy is an accomplished photographer and records his work in progress as well as in the final stage in images as beautiful and mysterious as the actual work.
Two similar types of artistic expression came to mind for me. The devotional work of the Tibetan monks who make painstaking mandalas out of colored sand and when they are finished they are intentionally destroyed by brushing them away. There is also a practice
in Italy which I was lucky enough to witness where in townspeople decorate the pavement with elaborate depictions from the bible using seeds, flower petals, sand and coffeee grounds.It takes many hours to produce and when finished it becomes the parade route of the religious procession which totally eradicates it. Artistically, I think the next of kin to Goldsworthy must be the photographer JR whose work with filmmaker Agnes Varda was documented in the film Faces Places. They leave their site specific work behind outside in the elements which guarantees it’s eventual fading from view. Watching any of these forms of artistic creation does something wonderful for the viewer. It takes one out of the normal mindset and lifts one up to a Zen-like place of detachment and embrace of the moment and the act of creation. It is both inspiring, uplifting and a worthy antidote to much of our contemporary intake today. It’s like a meditation for the stillness-challenged.