There has been a lot of Richard Long’s work on show in the Midlands in the past year – and now there’s an exhibition dedicated to him at The New Art Gallery in Walsall.
The gallery is showing Richard Long: Prints 1970-2013 and a work created in the gallery, Spring Circle, 1992. The prints cover all those he has made during his career.
In a fascinating In Conversation with the Walsall gallery’s director, Stephen Snoddy, Long was questioned about his career and his work.
Asked to leave college in the west of England, because, he said, he was “too precocious”, he went to Saint Martin’s School of Art in London, where a fellow student was George of Gilbert and George fame.
For Long, his own fame came fast – he said his reputation preceded him, and there were soon exhibitions in Europe and New York. He showed photographs of sculptures created in the landscape on long, solitary walks, using items he found on the way – and this has continued to be his way of working ever since.
Answering questions from the large audience, he told how, amazingly, he can go for walks two weeks long carrying his camping equipment and all the food he will need – though he does have to plan where he will be able to get water. He doesn’t take music or books with him, preferring to live in the moment and experience nature around him.
He is always solitary – though when looking at one of his prints later I saw two rucksacks in a photograph – explained by the caption which said his fellow land artist and friend Hamish Fulton was at that point with him.
Working alone, he creates works such as circles of stones or marks in the grass, seen only by himself unless he decides the work is good enough to share, when he then photographs it and it becomes his art. Sometimes he decides what he has created isn’t good enough, so no one sees it, and some walks have been effectively washed out by the rain so he has not been able to produce anything.
The In Conversation helped me understand much more his way of working, and what is both behind and what goes in to his works.
The Mead Gallery at Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry had an exhibition of Land Art in the autumn, and an exhibition of walking art has recently finished at the mac in Birmingham, and afterwards I asked Long why he thought there was this sudden focus on this type of art. He said he thought they had just come around to it, 20 years too late – a typically brief and blunt response, judging by the In Conversation!
The exhibition includes Spring Circle, with stones from Cornwall. Apparently the greenish-blue slate has been cut to preserve its natural form, and is shown smooth side up to allow sun in the gallery to shine off its surface.
The prints exhibition shows the extent of his travels around the world. Included, is a new one, No Footprints, also available as a limited edition print, from his visit to Antarctica, where he discovered the landscape left no sign of his presence.
Being in the Moment is a fantastic image of a British landscape of mountains, a road leading away and sheep dotted around, a photograph taken already 25 days into a walk.
There are lots from South America and Africa, plus A Line in Japan, 1980, stones leading up a mountain.
The prints tell of a long career spent in creation in the outdoors, around the world, and after months of seeing a few works in various galleries it’s a great exhibition to create an overview of his career.