Richard Long was born in 1945, in Bristol. From 1962 until 1965, he studied at the West of England College of Art, Bristol, and, from 1966 until 1968, at St. Martin’s School of Art in London. There, he was a student of Anthony Cato and Phillip King through whom he became involved with natural materials. Already during his studies, he started to create works that concentrated on nature and landscape, on markers and documentations that were soon to shape Long’s work as Land Artist. With this new artistic focus, Long became a part of and a driving force in the protest movements of the early 1960s. Through their landscape-oriented works that imply an expanded notion of the artwork itself and of art material, as well as new demands vis à vis the viewer’s readiness to perceive art, they turned their backs on the established art world. In Land Art, nature in its entirety takes the place of traditional art materials and work processes. It is changed through the artist’s spatial interventions, while artistic markers and objects are, at the same time, exposed to the constant changes of nature.
A Line Made by Walking, done in 1967 in England, shows the beginning of Long’s artistic paths. Walking up and down, the artist marked a straight line in the grass which he documented with photographs. Aside from the circle that also manifested itself in Long’s conceptions early on, Long emphasized the (out)line of his sculptures, recognizable as a trace of time. His »Ground Sculptures« thus become visible through the processual action, the physical effort of the artist. Further walks followed in England, Ireland (A Line in Ireland, 1974), in the Himalayas (A Line in the Himalayas, 1975) or the deserts of Africa and Australia (Sahara Circle, 1988). They took days and weeks, presented themselves as artistic explorations, and documented the artist’s physical presence and individual experience of room and space. Temporary lines and circles of stone as well as wooden sculptures made from materials found, such as slate and firestone, peat, driftwood or fir needles, proved his presence in the landscape. Often, Long removed them again from the location after finishing the photographic and written documentation, or he exposed them to natural processes of weathering and transience. For the artist, this shows the more »humane« character of the work, since its limited presence also points towards the reality and transience of human life.
Long’s works do not intervene in the landscape in radical ways. Rather, they lend themselves to be read as structuring and geometrizing, yet cautiously implemented cultural signs and traces of activity. In their shapes, they witness the spatial movements of the artist. Through wind, rain, and erosion, these traces may well disappear again. Therefore, the documentation of these interventions in photography or in artist books also constitutes an essential part of Long’s works. Moreover, in the context of his walks, sculptures and installations emerged. And since about 1981, pictures or, rather, works on walls that are not placed in exterior space. However, through their materiality and arrangement they are still connected to the landmarks described above: »A sculpture, a map, a text a photograph; all forms of my work are of equal value or complement each other« (Long, in Auss.-Kat. Köln 1986). In this togetherness or juxtaposition of forms of expression, Long’s wall works perhaps occupy a specific position. They generate a close link between interior and exterior through their spatial reference in an exhibition or a museum on the one hand, and through the use of natural materials on the other. Finally, these works led him back to those places that Land Art had consciously avoided: galleries and museums. With natural materials – such as the mud of the River Avon – applied (River Avon Mud Cirlcle, 1997) or thrown (Muddy Water Falls, 1984) by hand, paths open up from the interior and its spatial conditions to the exterior and to specific places. Similar to the artist’s documentations and publications, these works serve to reconstruct and visualize his walks.
Richard Long lives in Bristol.
Richard Long: Ausst.-Kat. Kunstverein Hannover u.a., Hannover 1999
Richard Long: Ausst.-Kat. Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 1994
Richard Long. Skulpturen, Fotos, Texte, Bücher: Ausst.-Kat. Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen 1993
Richard Long – In Kreisen gehen: Ausst.-Kat. Hayward Gallery London u.a., Stuttgart 1991/94
Richard Long, Angel Flying too Close to the Ground: Ausst.-Kat. Kunstverein St. Gallen 1989
Richard Long: Ausst.-Kat. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York, hg. v. R. Fuchs, New York/London 1986