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notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK
Monday, August 03, 2009Doing almost nothing Michael Craig-Martin: 'I always think of your art as one of understatement.'
Richard Long: 'Doing almost nothing.'
[from A Conversation in Heaven and Earth catalogue]
He says it's doing almost nothing, but the more you think about those text works: ('A THOUSAND PIECES OF DRIFTWOOD / PLACED FOLLOWING THE WATERLINE / AND ALONG THE WALKING LINE', 'A STRAIGHT NORTHWARD WALK ACROSS DARTMOOR'), the more convinced you are of the amount of thought and preparation, the amount of shoe leather expended, the amount of sweat involved in each of his walks.
It's Zen, really, Richard Long's art. The texts, the single photographs capturing the entire essence of a lengthy walk, the rocks placed in basic patterns on gallery floors, mud handprint patterns on gallery walls, stones placed on the ground - all very simple at first sight, sometimes to the point of banality ('A LINE MADE BY WALKING'), but operating at great depth (using the landscape in new ways, making a sculpture by walking, map works: walking as art, exploring relationships between time, distance, geography and measurement, feeding the imagination). I like it all. I like what he says about it, as in this scan from the Tate exhibition guide (in the background the Pill Ferry slipway, Long's home territory, source of the River Avon mud which he uses to create many of his works):
If a walk is doing almost nothing, for Richard Long, then doing almost nothing involves all this:
I like the idea of using the land without possessiing it. A walk marks time with an accumulation of footsteps. it defines the form of the land. Walking the roads and paths is to trace a portrait of the country. I have become interested in using a walk to express original ideas about the landart, and walking itself. A walk is also the means of discovering places in which to make sculpture in 'remote' areas, places of nature, places of great power and contemplation. These works are made of the place, they are a rearrangement of it and in time will be reabsorbed into it. I hope to make work for the land, not against it.In the keynote essay in the Heaven and Earth catalogue Clarrie Wallis sums up all this very well indeed:
Long's art can be understood as ... a balance of the mental and the physical, the territory of ideas and the territory of materials and places. Each work, though not by definition conceptual, realises a particular idea; drawing together a sense of order and physical endurance. At the heart of Long's art is the desire for a direct engagement with the landscape, and the primacy of his own experience. This sense of present or immediate experience has something in common with Zen Buddhism's concept of 'now-ness', of being in the moment. Thus walking has proved to be an ideal means for Long to explore relationships between time, distance, geography and measurement, as they mediated by his own body. And it is through the cumulative effect of each walk that is undertaken, and the recording of sculptures made along the way, that the uniqueness of the world is revealed. Long's work is about his own physical engagement, exploring the order of the universe and nature's elemental forces. And in this sense it is about being a body in the world and about measuring the world against ourselves.
See The Richard Long Newsletter for images and details of the exhibits in the current Tate show
And more background, biography etc at www.richardlong.org