Walking and art - inspired by Richard Long
It was the craggy features of Richard Long which caught my eye in yesterday's "Guardian" newspaper. He is a "land artist" whose art was apparently revoluutionary when he first took a photograph of a line made in meadow in Bristol by walking on it, in 1967. The photo is reproduced on the facing page, along with a line of rocks at Cul Mor in Scotland, a liine of stones on Mount Fuji, and the "Macduff Circle" of stones in the grounds of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Walking is a common element to the first three.
With that first line in the grass, he "claimed the act of walking as art. The very tread of his feet was the work: this was different from the Romantics' interaction with the landscape....According to Long....'the significance of walking in my work is that it brings time and space into my art; space meaning distance. A work of art can be a journey.'"
He walks in rural areas, in wilderness, and captures images of lines and circles made with materials which he finds in the location.
It's all quite intriguing for those of us who walk to enjoy the hills and the sense of wilderness, take in the views, and maybe try to capture magical moments with photographs. Many striking images are characterised by natural lines and the serendipitous position of rocks carved by natural forces. What is he doing that is different and provides the basis of his reputation as a "land artist"? Maybe I just don't get it.
Read the article, by Charlotte Higgins, dated 16 June 2012, and make up your own mind.
Long has recorded these images around the world, "his steps mapping territories from Dartmoor to the Andes. On his journeys, he has arranged stones by roads, made circles from boulders, aligned pebbles in riverbeds, traced furrows in sand....'My footstetps make the mark. My legs carry me across the country. It's like a way of measuring the world. I love that connection to my own body. It's me to the world,' he says."
He is not interested in just taking photographs of the landscape, or making monuments. "'But I think there is a fascinating territory between those two positions. I can move things from place to place. I can manipulate the world by leaving stones on the road. And they don't disappear because the stone stone is still in the world - but completely anonymously."
People may walk past his art without noticing it. He has even created an "artwork" of 33 stones, "one placed each day 'along a walk of 1,030 miles in 33 days from the southernmost point to the northernmost point of mainland Britain'" (It's not clear how he displayed or captured this - maybe a photo of each one).
He also makes works for galleries, using natural materials - "mud and water, sticks and stone."
As the article says, "there is an immense simplicity to Long's work. When making work in the landscape he uses only the objects he encounters."
Well, we could all do this - and haven't most of us made stacks of flat stones on a beach, or sculpted wet sand into pinnacles to be washed away by the next tide, or adjusted some branches in the foreground of a woodland photo to improve the effect? When is it art, and when is it a con trick? Art? It's in the eye of the beholder. And in the mind of the creator. We can all find deep hidden meaning, or a forceful visual impact, in the simplest things, whether in cities or in the wilderness. Often we notice what others do not. Noticing, and maybe capturing, these moments can give a rich extra dimension to our walking experiences.
On the original Walking Stories website there was a section called "Every picture tells a story" (to catch the attention of those who remember early Rod Stewart music) - it didn't feature many pictures before the move to the new site, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. A single dramatic or unusual image can bring back memories of a wonderful walk, and provide a starting point for a story. You can still find that section on the old site.
But this is not so much about pictures to conjur up stories, as pictures of landscape features to create some artistic impression, which doesn't require a story. Here are a few from some of my walks, runs and cycle rides. One or two involved manipulating objects which were found nearby. I'll put more in a Gallery as I rediscover them (link below).
Contributed by Andrew Llanwarne - 17 June 2012< Back to England page for links to other stories
GalleryView a gallery of further images for this story.