I have been interested to see Richard Long’s work after being given his name (and Andy Goldsworthy’s) by one of my previous tutors during a discussion about long distance walking.
My current project “Walking Home” involves a 41 mile walk over three days, tracing closely the drive I make regularly to visit my mother at our family home in Bognor Regis where I was brought up. Having completed the walk, I wanted to look at the way Long works with time, distance and the landscape, hoping to be inspired as I present images of personal significance in an area that means so much to me.
I found Richard Long’s ideas beautifully simple, that walking and journeys are common to all mankind in all eras. As soon as we can stand, we place one foot in front of another and move through space at a pace which is natural and allows us to observe the world around us as we travel. This is what walkers find so inspiring and why it is such a popular pastime. If you give your walk a purpose or apply an original idea to it (as Long does) then it is art.
Richard Long presents his created art from walking in several ways. As an idea in text, or as a mark or construction in the landscape which is then recorded as a photograph and left as a semi permanent sculpture. Whichever method of presentation is used, the walk is completed and even though invisible, it is always present and referred to as an idea.
In these examples. Long has, (I think) related locations and events to the thoughts he was having at the time or words that express his response to those locations and events. In the second example, he has distilled the five day experience into twelve words arranged so their lengths evokes a perspective.
Richard Long – A line in the Himalayas 1975 – Made on a 23 day walk in Nepal
This image is one of the photographs used for the publicity of this exhibition. It also appears in the book I bought there, “The Art of Walking – a field guide” I was interested by the accompanying text in the book, written by Long in 1988: “There are a lot of things theoretical and intellectual to say about lines and circles, but I think the very fact that they are images that don’t belong to me and, in fact, are shared by everyone because they have existed throughout history, actually makes them more powerful than if I was inventing my own idiosyncratic, particular Richard Long type images. I think it cuts out a lot of personal unwanted aesthetic paraphernalia.
Richard Long also uses the materials of the landscape for his art, a mud installation made from the sediments of the river Avon near Bristol. The work is called Muddy Waterfalls and again was used in the publicity material for the Arnolfini Exhibition.
Finally, I was impressed by the massive cruciform sculpture made with loose slate blocks laid on the floor of the gallery. With little or no explanatory text, the viewer is left to reflect on the piece. It’s presence in the room is massive and we started looking for a pattern or system of construction. We discussed its thickness – would it have the same impact if the blocks were thinner? We decided that the weight and impact would be less if this were the case. Images of the construction on Long’s website gave no real clue as to the system of construction other than you can see taped markers on the floor as a guide to the shape. As in most of his work, the art is in the execution, the piece is just the evidence of that effort.