'I can make a circle of words, I can make a circle of stones, I can make a circle of mud with my hands on a wall, I can walk in a circle for one hundred miles. It is a completely adaptable image and form and system. –Richard Long, 1988
A large new floor-based stone circle, Flint Wheel, 2018, is at the centre of Richard Long's latest exhibition in London, loosely themed around different uses of the circular motif across his practice. Constructed from knapped or split Norfolk flint, the stones radiate out from a central nexus like spokes on a wheel, alternating in tone between the chalky white exterior and each flint's darker core. This geometric, starburst pattern refers back to previous works by Long, such as Paddy-Field Chaff Circle, 2003, a temporary circle of radial lines made on Warli tribal land in the Maharastra district of India, while the sculpture's material relates to a recent flint and slate circle, North South East West, 2017, made for his major exhibition at Houghton Hall last year.
Echoing this on the wall is Long's only tondo mud work, 360° Crescent, 2016, a round shape bisected by a sweep of marks tracking Long's gestural movements as he applies viscous mud to the surface with the resultant splashes and drips appearing below. The orientation of the work is not necessarily governed by the gravitational pull of these marks or the crescent shape, but can be rotated according to the artist's instruction. A text work, titled From Circle to Circle From Space to Earth, 2002, made after a continuous walk of 39 miles from a full moonrise to the sunrise, is also a poetic description of one night in the planet's constant state of revolution.
Just as Long's work obliquely references ancient symbols, beliefs and superstitions surrounding sacred sites and stone circles, it also reflects the occurrence of shapes and forms in nature, at both the macro- and the microscopic level. In a recent photographic work, Circle in the Amazon, Brazil, 2016, Long arranged palm leaves into a circular mound, leaving only a gentle imprint in the chaotic fabric of the jungle.
Indeed the first iteration of the circumference in Long's work harks back to his earliest days as an artist after leaving his first art school. In 1966 he made Turf Circle, in which Long convinced his neighbour in Bristol to allow him to cut and remove shallow triangular sections of soil before putting back the grass as a slightly lowered, circular bed. Another early sculptural circle, Stone Dance, appears in his first artist's book with Lisson Gallery in 1971.
For Art Basel's Unlimited section in June, Long will be installing a major work, Ivory Granite Line, 2016, constructed from nine metres of granite stone, which follows up his presentation of a mud-panel triptych at the Armory fair in New York in March.
About Richard Long
Richard Long has been in the vanguard of Conceptual and Land art in Britain since he created A Line Made by Walking in 1967 while still a student. This photograph of the path left by his feet in the grass, a fixed line of movement, established a precedent that art could be a journey. Through this medium of walking, time and distance became new subjects for his work. He has since expanded his walks to wilderness regions all over the world, from mountains to deserts, shorelines and rivers. Following his acclaimed exhibition Earth Sky at Houghton Hall in Norfolk, England last year, Long's show at Lisson Gallery will feature a new wall work in mud created specifically for the exhibition and text works that document journeys made over the past few years.
Press release courtesy Lisson Gallery.
Mud is not a promising medium to draw with. It is dull, thick, unpromising stuff. A muddy drawing sounds like a vague and boring one. Miraculously, however - or maybe just because he's spent 50 years