Illustrated companion

From the mid-1960s Richard Long developed a landscape art which was both strikingly original in the forms it took and was the expression of a contemplative and poetic response to nature belonging to an English tradition that can be related back to Constable and Wordsworth. Long's work, however, is based on a much more intensive and continuous presence of the artist in the landscape than has ever previously been the case. Long undertakes solitary walks, all over the world and in some of its most remote places, carrying on what the art historian Anne Seymour has characterised as 'a philosophical dialogue between the artist and the earth.' The results take various forms, from works such as this, using maps, words and photographs to present places, routes, things seen, thoughts evoked and actions performed, to sculptures assembled from natural elements such as twigs, driftwood or stones which can be physically presented in the gallery space. Almost all Long's work is based on geometric structures, most commonly, as here, the circle, but also straight lines, spirals, squares, crosses, parallels. The significance of these is that they are simple and distinctively human: they are the simplest possible means by which the artist can structure his response to the landscape. In particular, the contrast of the geometric marks of man with the irregularities of the natural world produces a heightened awareness of their inter-relationship. When this work was acquired by the Tate Gallery the following account of it was compiled with the close co-operation of the artist:

' "A Hundred Mile Walk" was done over the New Year 1971-2, hence the dating. The artist records his awareness of some of the sounds heard on the walk, how he became aware of the presence of rivers as he approached them, pockets of sound in the gullies, and how the sound disappeared behind him as he walked on. The first time the circle was walked it was new, but each subsequent time it became more and more familiar, particularly the crossing places of rivers and streams ("In and out the sound of rivers over familiar stepping stones").

"Corrina, Corrina" (Day 6) is a reference to a traditional folk song, sung by Bob Dylan.

The work concerns both the internal feelings and thoughts of the artist and the external aspects of his experience during the walk. It records all kinds of sensory and perceptual experiences including time, space, movement, sight, sound, touch, taste, illusion etc. These are on various scales and levels but all take particularly pure form giving a pungent sense of heightened awareness: a north wind, sucking icicles from the grass stems (Day 3), the sound of rivers, folk song, the physical action of striding around the circle, "Flop down on my back with tiredness stare up at the sky and watch it recede" (Day 7).

The photograph below the text was taken during the walk, looking onward in the direction of the walk.'

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.270