A Review of Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time

Naomi Chasek-MacFoySeptember 3, 2018Finding Your Spirit in ArtMedia

Rivers and Tides is an intriguing and well crafted documentary about UK artist and eccentric, Andy Goldsworthy, whose art is completely based in nature. He creates meandering lines of ice which appear to bore through rock, giant conical shapes from stone, and gradients of color with fall’s brightest leaves, essentially making something out of nothing.

The film depicts Goldsworthy creating his art as he speaks about it, spilling candid gems of raw insight into himself and his work. It creates a very personal feeling; by the end you feel as though you know Andy Goldsworthy.

Goldsworthy’s spirit is defiantly in his art. Speaking from frigid, midwinter Nova Scotia in the opening scenes of the film, he comments, “When the work is going well, I feel warm, when there is a collapse, I feel cold.” From quotes like these it is easy to tell that Goldsworthy is a true artist, often a mere extension of his work.

Nature lover as much as artist, Goldsworthy revels in the natural world, “I need the land,” he says. At times, it seems Goldsworthy’s art is only an excuse to be outside enjoying the earth. As an artist, he works in tandem with nature, employing a subtle give and take. He underscores and enhances the earth’s beauty with pieces often as ephemeral and sometimes as imperceptible as a simple spider web.

As much as Goldsworthy’s art is about building and the process of creating, it is also about the way it gets destroyed. Because his art is created amidst nature, it is also subject to nature’s rules, its habits, and its whims. Sometimes it is a swirling breeze that takes down the hanging lattice Goldsworthy has merged with a tree branch, in the next frame it is the unforgiving ebb and flow of the sea that dismantles a dome he has built from driftwood. The film devotes almost as much time to the death of Goldsworthy’s art as it does to its birth. But it does well to depict that death. When endeavoring, the artist is always aware of looming prospect of the end of the intricate ephemera they create.

Ultimately, this is appealing simply because Andy Goldsworthy is such an appealing artist. He is completely original, entirely unpretentious, and wonderfully endearing and personable. His art is much the same; it is like nothing you have ever seen before, and even though it is literal genius, it doesn’t pretend to be greater than its natural beginnings -- something it’s not. In addition, the film portrays this wonderful and intriguing artist beautifully. We can almost forget we are watching a film and feel as though we are sitting with the artist as he imparts his genius. While maintaining this intimate mood, the film also incorporates stunning shots of some of Goldsworthy’s larger works and both England’s and North America’s breathtaking countryside seamlessly, which makes for a great movie-watching experience.

Apart from a scene in which we can see a sheep giving birth, Rivers and Tides is completely kid-friendly. However, it is not action-packed and therefore it may be a little boring for young children.

I gave this movie a 4 out of 5.

Naomi Chasek-MacFoy is a senior attending Bard High School Early College. She enjoys reading, playing soccer, and sewing and lives in Brooklyn, New York.