“I am interested in the universals: stones, water, mud, hands, days, circles, symmetry, gravity, footpaths, and roads.”1
Richard Long was born and bred in Bristol and still lives in his native city, so it is not surprising that elements of the local landscape are integral to many of his works. For his exhibition at Arnolfini, which forms part of the city’s celebrations as 2015 European Green Capital, Long has selected some of his favourite photographs and text pieces, many of them with local flavour, from the last 50 years of his career. A number of key works have been recreated inside the gallery and one wall has been given over to a new painting, Muddy Water Falls (2015), using mud from the River Avon: the top half, a dynamic hand- and finger-painted mural; the bottom half, a flurry of drips, splashes and smears, created by gravity, reflecting the constant redistribution of this mud in the tidal river of its origin. “I do the top half of the work and then nature does the rest,” said Long during the press view.
Long has also created a new site-specific work on The Downs, a place of which he has fond memories, describing them as “his first wilderness”. A 170-metre-long line of resplendent white stones, Boyhood Line (2015) marks a desire line, formed by walkers over time. At 70 years of age, Long still produces all his work himself, without assistance, and the physical act of making a piece or completing a walk is very much a part of the work itself – some of which, ephemeral in nature, go on to exist solely through photography and text records.
Long is among the most important artists of his generation. He won the Turner Prize in 1989, on his fourth nomination, and represented Great Britain at the 37th Venice Biennale in 1976. He was appointed CBE in 2013. He has made artworks in all five continents – continually seeking out parts of the world that are still wilderness – and has had more than 250 solo exhibitions to date.
Richard Long: TIME AND SPACE
31 July – 15 November 2015
Richard Long: Boyhood Line
The Downs, Bristol, close to Ladies Mile
20 June – 15 November 2015
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY
1. Richard Long, November 2014, exhibition guide.
Richard Long: Heaven and Water
There is a seeming antithesis between the realities of an invasive ‘Time Team’ archaeological intervention at Stonehenge (as witnessed at the end of May on UK TV) and the gently caressing manner in which Richard Long’s works address the English landscape, and indeed the planetary land mass. He too denotes these in terms of stone circles, rocks, or pathways gently laid on the surface, always on the surface. How would Astronaut Long have visited the lunar surface?
Richard Long: Walking and Marking
The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Edinburgh, in time for the Edinburgh Festival 2007, is currently staging an outstanding recent retrospective exhibition on Richard Long. There is a curious irony here: never has Long's work been so superbly exhibited anywhere, as in the NGMA's present building - this neo-classical Schinkelesque mid-l9th Century former school building.
Citizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution 1760-1830
The Royal Academy of Arts is currently hosting 'Citizens and Kings: Portraiture in the Age of Revolution'. However, despite the British Museum's own superb and scholarly comprehensive exhibition entitled 'Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the Eighteenth Century' (2003), there seems little evidence of deep scholarship here, building upon that masterly tour de force. Rather, this is (of course) an 'entertainment' (which it undoubtedly will prove to be for the broad mass of the Royal Academy's regular public). This is a shame, for the British Museum had unearthed a world of discovery, no less.
Mediators and Messengers: Contemporary Art in the Landscape
The entire agenda for painting about landscape has shifted in the 21st century. Concepts and readings of the land have a weighty and protracted precedence but in the 1970s, far-reaching revisions were explored by artists. These have generated a powerful volume of new work by painters, and installation and land artists.
RSA 181st Annual Exhibition
The Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) in Edinburgh has got in before the Royal Academy in London with its summer show. The RSA 2007 exhibition powerfully develops the 'Highlands and Islands' theme in contemporary art and sits well within global aspirations and directions.