The documentary ‘Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy’ by Thomas Riedelsheimer on the British artist exhibits a man at work and a man at home in the natural world.
While standing ankle-deep in a cold English brook, Andy Goldsworthy arranges bits of bright yellow leaves on the flat surfaces of stones. He dips each piece in the water then lays them carefully on the stones, like an all-natural paper-mâché project. He is nearly finished when a strong gust of wind and mist blows his hard work away. He straightens up and lets out a frustrated sigh. He then tries again.
This moment in Thomas Riedelsheimer’s documentary Leaning Into the Wind sums up Goldsworthy’s relationship with nature. This brook, in particular, has been in his life for the last thirty-odd years. Goldsworthy is constantly interacting with—and battling—nature.
Few contemporary artists connect us to nature better than Andy Goldsworthy. Instead of trying to create high-concept art, Goldsworthy seeks to communicate with nature. When he completes his yellow leaf project and photographs it from afar, it comes across as an optical illusion, a set of two-dimensional planes floating in a three-dimensional world, as if mother nature herself created it. But to the viewer, it’s clear that a human being has left his mark.
Leaning Into the Wind is the second partnership between Riedelsheimer and Goldsworthy after 2001’s Rivers and Tides. This documentary sees the artist older, but somehow not any wiser. Goldsworthy explains that when he used to describe his work, he’d say he made art from nature. But lately, Goldsworthy cannot see the boundary between the man-made and the natural. When he works with his body, he says, he works with nature.
But watching him work, slowly, peacefully, methodically, is like watching the seasons change. And Riedelsheimer’s slow-paced camerawork and lingering shots complement this nicely.
The viewer should treat this documentary as if they were visiting one of Goldsworthy’s works in a museum. They should be prepared to slow down and appreciate each yellow leaf or raindrop.
When Goldsworthy climbs a grassy hill, beaten by wind and rain, he lets his body fall forward, into the wind. The wind keeps him from falling down the other side of the hill—a moment of equilibrium. Every one of the artist’s works seeks to find this moment. And, in watching the process unfold on film, you may find that peace yourself.