BY DAVID NAVERRETE
RIVERS AND TIDES IS AN unforgettable documentary. From the beginning, you perceive an ethereal alchemy between artist and filmmaker that brings the viewer into the sacred realm of spiritual awareness. One becomes privy to that intangible element in the artist that moves him to create beauty within the majestic crib of Nature herself.
In Rivers and Tides German documentarian Thomas Riedelsheimer accomplishes the sublime with an elegant and discerning eye. His camera captures Scottish environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy in his expressive quest for meaning. Using materials from the land itself, whether it’s leaves, flowers, and roots, or stones, pebbles, and ice, Goldsworthy gives birth to poignant sculptures of arresting beauty.
As we watch him painstakingly piece together a serpentine icicle jutting from a dark rock—a translucent snake teeming with life at the crack of dawn—Goldsworthy ignites our heart with the sudden realization that God’s divine breath spills from human ingenuity.
There is an act of magic here when we witness the artist’s work. In his early failure to create one of his famed stone pinecones before the tide comes in, we feel our own hopes and vulnerability. But when he finally succeeds and Riedel-sheimer captures how the incoming tide slowly swallows the immovable stone monolith, our heart understands the sublime meaning of death.
That effortless transformation becomes our epiphany, for we know, just as Goldsworthy reminds us, that the stone sculpture is still there, and he tells us he can still feel the texture of every stone under the water. When the tide leaves again and we see the stone pinecone resurface, we intuit the meaning of resurrection, of life’s revolving nature, of our belonging to this rhythmical and celestial flow.
How is this amazing feat of understanding accomplished? Goldsworthy doesn’t know. And I don’t either. It just happens. Goldsworthy’s creations take on the intense reverence of Tibetan sand mandalas that are made for a limited time and then given back to the elements. It is that stark correlation between the frail beauty of art and the lasting flux of Nature that brings about a swing of awareness nothing short of unalloyed transcendence.
To watch Goldsworthy work is to watch our own life in eternal flux. This documentary is a rare gem that will stay with you long after his sculptures have disappeared.