Today is the occasion to bear in mind the British artist Richard Long RA CBE (2/6/45- ). He is an English sculptor and one of the best known British land artists. Long is the only artist to be shortlisted for the Turner Prize four times. He was nominated in 1984, 1987, 1988 and he then won the award in 1989 for White Water Line. This column is a tribute to artists, living or dead, who have left their mark in Contemporary Art. Through documents or interviews, starting with: moments and memories, we reveal out from the past-unknown sides of big personalities, who left their indelible traces in time and history…
By Efi Michalarou
Born in Bristol, England, Long studied at the University of the West of England’s College of Art then to Saint Martin’s School of Art, London, a year after he graduated from St Martin’s, the artist became closely associated with the emergence of Land Art. Long made his international reputation during the 1970s, but already with sculptures made as the result of epic walks, these take him through rural and remote areas in Britain, or as far afield as the plains of Canada, Mongolia and Bolivia. He walks at different times for different reasons. At times, these are predetermined courses and concepts; yet equally, the idea of the walk may assert itself in an arbitrary circumstance. Guided by a great respect for nature and by the formal structure of basic shapes, Long never makes significant alterations to the landscapes he passes through. Instead he marks the ground or adjusts the natural features of a place by up-ending stones for example, or making simple traces. He usually works in the landscape but sometimes uses natural materials in the gallery. Different modes of presentation, sometimes combined, were used to bring his experience of nature back into the museum or gallery. From 1981, Long also alluded to the terms of painting by applying mud in a very liquid state by hand to a wall in similar configurations, establishing a dialogue between the primal gesture of the hand-print and the formal elegance of its display. He stressed that the meaning of his work lay in the visibility of his actions rather than in the representation of a particular landscape. Almost forty years on, his work continues the dialectic between working freely and ephemerally wherever in the wide world, and bringing it back into the public domain of art spaces and books in the form of sculptures of raw materials such as stones, mud and water and photographic and text works. In 2012 the artist was on view at the exhibition “Ends of the Earth: Land Art bis 1974″ with his first text work from 1969: A Walking Tour in the Berner Oberland. The consistent employment of archetypal shapes, mostly circle, line, cross and spiral, is immediately noticeable in the artist’s body of work. Much as the appearance could evoke ancient monumental connotation, the force of Long’s oeuvre lies in its conceptual s implicity. The work is just as it is staged. Nonetheless, Long does not withdraw himself from believing his actions of connecting simple geometric structures such as circles with organic elements, may reach across cultural and generational boundaries. Permanent installations include Riverlines (2006) at the Hearst Tower (this was at the time the biggest wall work he had ever made), Planet Circle (1991) at the Museum De Pont in Tilburg, Netherlands, in the Hallen für Neue Kunst Schaffhausen, Switzerland, and White Water Falls (2012) in the Garvan Institute in Sydney, Australia.
“I think circles have belonged in some way or other to all people at all times. They are universal and timeless, like the image of a human hand. For me, that is part of their emotional power, although there is nothing symbolic or mystical in my work”-Richard Long