Moira and I went along to the Arnolfini this morning to see Bristol-born Richard Long’s latest exhibition. Now I have to admit, the first time I experienced Long’s work at Tate St Ives in 2002, I was a little nonplussed. Although I was rather taken by his “walking texts”, from a graphic perspective (Gill Sans font!), they didn’t really feel like art to me.Over the years, however, I’ve come to love his work - and somewhat strangely perhaps, in the circumstances, I PARTICULARLY like his textworks. Many of these originate from walks undertaken in the countryside around Bristol. Every walk is unique. They’re crystallised/summarised in a few phrases, together with details of mileage and timespan (and he always seems to cover very impressive daily distances – frequently 40 miles or so!).
The walks, like all his other work, represent the artist’s physical actions. He frequently uses mud taken from the banks of the Avon for his “paintings”. Nature is key to his work. Sometimes, in the constructed pieces, they might be fingerprints in the landscape. His walks are always undertaken alone; they could be seen as pilgrimages. His walks are limited by the capabilities of the human body and the body becomes the artist’s “natural material”. Long’s landscape sculptures are typically unplanned – created after a period of walking in the landscape.
For me, there’s a spiritual, poetic element within his work – Long has referred to “what you might call a state of grace” after walking close to nature. In many ways, the exhibition is a call for us all to look at our surroundings in a new way. Perhaps Long’s work is also a reminder, in our frenetic world of “instant access”, to pause and to consider, to experience and to feel.
It’s definitely an exhibition to take your time over. I really enjoyed it and I’ll certainly stop off on a regular basis to reflect on specific pieces over the coming months (it ends on 15 November).
You need to see if you can.
Photo: “Time+Space 2015” slate sculpture.