Richard Long

Bristol England 1945, lives and works in Bristol

The basis of Long’s work is always a simple geometric form: the circle, the line, the spiral or the cross – minimal forms that stand out in the landscape because they have been produced by human hands. Long has left them behind on his endless walks throughout the world: circles of stone and wood in France, in Alaska or in the mists of Scotland; a meandering line on a stony plain in the Sahara and a line of water poured onto a small bridge in the Italian Alps. All of the works are photographed by Long, and these photographs are shown in galleries and museums. He also brings his works into the museum in other ways, by arranging the stones or branches gathered in nature into clearly defined strips or circles. 

Together with Hamish Fulton, Richard Long is usually associated with British Land Art. This term was conceived in the United States for the immense Earth Works, made in nature by artists such as Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer and Walter De Maria. But whereas the American Land Artists shifted 40,000 tons of soil and sand (Heizer) or, in a lake, created a spiral of stones and clay with a bulldozer (Smithson), the British artists use their own strength to produce their work; this gives it a more human scale.

Long’s work marks a significant turning point in the development of sculpture. His early work is central to the wave of new expressions that overwhelmed the art world at the end of the sixties: conceptual art, environments, happenings and performances. Land Art is frequently linked with conceptual art, because these artists dissociated the material work of art from the presentation of it. The distinction from ‘the artwork as idea’ is therefore a minor one. But with Land Art, the idea never became so important that the original work of art lost its relevance, as was the case with conceptual art. The relationship between the sculpture outdoors and its representation indoors remains very evident. 

For more information on this artist you can consult the Richard Long newsletter.