Richard Long

Sir Richard Long has had a phenomenally distinguished and successful career as a artist since the 1960s, when,even when he was barely out of Central St Martin’s art school, he stunned the art world with his innovative walks, turned into sculpture. He is globally known for a myriad of ways in which his practice directly with landscape has developed through poetic or documentary text works, installations both in situ and transported to exhibition settings, photographs. His way of working solo, mapping and interpreting landscape, has both diversified, and remained utterly consistent. While he has never defined himself as an environmentalist and is even suspicious of the definition ‘Land art’ , by which he has become known, he is nevertheless extremely attuned to the natural world and sensitive to its underlying structures, and uses nature directly in many forms, often saying that it is nature itself which forms the work. He is also thoroughly a modernist and even through his mud works and those which seem most intuitive, he is guided by measure and precision.

Great Ouse River Drawing, 2016 as part of ‘Sunlight and Gravity’

The Great Ouse River Drawing was made for GroundWork Gallery in situ by the artist as part of its inaugural exhibition, Sunlight and Gravity, which also featured the work of Roger Ackling. It was made with mud from the Great Ouse, King’s Lynn’s major tidal river. Richard Long has made mud drawings of various kinds, painted, hand stamped, spattered, thrown, for over 20 years. For this work he returned to his original methods, throwing, which he did with speed and precision, using mud diluted and sieved to exactly the right consistency. As it dried on the wall, it gradually cleared from being a mud slick, to reform the structure of the river bed, naturally re-creating its finely branching forms.

Richard Long making the Great Ouse River Drawing for the opening exhibition, July 2016
Richard Long’s Great Ouse River Drawing, 2016

The first work a visitor to GroundWork gallery sees is Richard Long’s dramatic splash mud drawing, made in situ for the opening exhibition ‘Sunlight and Gravity’. It remains, opposite the entrance, as a signature work and talking point. People have already said how it reminds them of the essence of a river, of long–flowing tresses of hair, of the bark of a tree. In a similar way it forms a starting point for a dialogue with each new exhibition, and it is always interesting to see what kind of different interpretations emerge.

Richard Long, River Avon Drawings 2014, on show at GroundWork Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Sunlight and Gravity

Sir Richard Long (knighted in 2018) is an inspiration to many younger artists who look to him as the founding artist in the land art movements of the last 40 years. He doesn’t like to be pigeon-holed in any particular genre (with the possible exception of modernism) – and we were very fortunate to be able to discuss a lot of this with him during the exhibition at GroundWork. Here below is the film of that discussion, made by James Murray-White.

Selecting flint with Richard Long for Houghton Hall, 2017

Richard Long’s North South East West in the Stone Hall at Houghton during the summer of 2017, was made from flint and slate. The flint came from a local quarry at Newton by Castle Acre. The work in situ was a supreme example of the creation of art from the environment, integrating a tamed landscape within the elite craftsmanship of a grand house, introducing a whole series of visual dialogues between wild and cultivated, modernist and historical, black and white, inside and outside, luxury and simplicity, geometric and irregular. It was very thought-provoking in so many ways about skills, resources, money, materials, contexts…