Richard Long

Being in the Moment

1999

Medium
Lithograph on paper
Dimensions
Unconfirmed, each: 600 x 800 mm
Collection
ARTIST ROOMS
Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d'Offay 2010
On long term loan
Reference
AL00209

Summary

Being in the Moment is a portfolio of four off-set lithographs, produced in an edition of sixty and presented in a wooden box with a cover booklet, which contains information about the production and printing of the portfolio. The portfolio was printed by Lecturis in Eindhoven, the Netherlands and published by Willem van Lieshout at PARC Editions in Lent, the Netherlands. The first three prints are landscape orientated and the fourth is portrait orientated. The first print is in colour and shows a landscape with a tarmac road on the right running into pine trees and mountains in this distance. Several sheep graze in the middle distance. The words ‘BEING IN THE MOMENT’ are printed in blue at the top of the photograph, over the cloudy sky. Under the image, on the mount, the following words are printed:

WALKING DOWN THE ROAD AHEAD
AND TO THE END OF THE DAY
WITH 25 DAYS ON THE ROAD BEHIND

ALONG A WALK OF 1030 MILES IN 33 DAYS FROM THE SOUTHERNMOST POINT TO THE NORTHERNMOST POINT OF MAINLAND BRITAIN
THE LIZARD TO DUNNET HEAD 1998

The second print is in black and white and shows the snowy summit of a mountain above cloud level. The landscape below is not visible as it is covered by the cloud layer which reaches into the distance. Below the image, on the mount, the following words are printed in green:

BEING ON THE SUMMIT OF KILIMANJARO AT A SUNRISE IN AFRICA IN 1969

The third print is in colour and shows another snowy summit, with a range of mountains visible in the distance. On the mount below the image the following words are printed in orange:

BEING ON THE SUMMIT OF COTOPAXI AT A SUNRISE IN SOUTH AMERICA IN 1998

The fourth print is in colour and shows a landscape with a small tent pitched on grassland in the foreground. Two thirds of the image depicts the grassland, with the remaining third showing a snow-topped mountain surrounded by mist. At the top of the image, printed in blue over the sky, are the following words:

SIXTH MORNING CAMP
ALONG THE TREK DE CONDOR
ON A TWELVE DAY WALK IN ECUADOR 1998

The content of the prints span the artist’s career from the 1960s up to the date of their publication in 1999. They cover a vast geographical reach, taking in Britain, Tanzania and Ecuador. From the late 1960s Long began to produce work abroad due to the availability of cheap air travel. This allowed the artist, as he puts it, ‘to get on an aeroplane and end up a few days later in a different continent, in a different culture, in a different landscape’ (quoted in Tufnell 2007, p.70). However, the first print of the four refers to a journey Long undertook at home, walking the length of mainland Britain. This acts as a starting point for the following prints in the series.

The second print refers to one of Long’s first trips abroad in 1969, when the artist climbed Kilimanjaro in Tanzania shortly after graduating from Saint Martin’s School of Art in London. His ambition was to make a sculpture on the summit of the mountain, which he did, though he has commented that the five day ‘climb turned out to be more interesting than the work.’ (Quoted in Tufnell 2007, p.33.) The artist has also commented on his difficulty in approaching the landscapes of East Africa:

I did feel quite overwhelmed just by the vastness and difference of the landscape and of the culture. I felt very small and insignificant and sort of European. I think it does take a long time to really become absorbed into different landscapes and to kind of understand them in a way which has some meaning.
(Quoted in Tufnell 2007, p.62.)

The final two prints refer to Long’s 1998 trip to Ecuador. The first, a photograph taken from the summit of Cotopaxi, echoes the print showing the summit of Kilimanjaro, indicating how Long’s concerns and methods of working have remained consistent throughout his career. The second shows the artist’s tent pitched in the Ecuadorian landscape during a twelve day trek. Long included several diary entries from this trek in the publication Walking the Line (Long 2002, p.144), many of them attesting to the physical nature of his working process, especially his awareness of his body’s state of adrenalin or need for rest, food, water and coffee. At the same time the artist engages closely with the rhythms of nature and subtle fluctuations in the landscape. He reflected on his journeys in an interview in 1984:

I actually enjoy camping and being on my own and the whole business of lighting fires, or choosing a camp site or sleeping on the ground. I always get my best sleep on some stony patch somewhere. I love the whole ritual and rhythm, the simple rhythm of being on a walk, like getting up with the sun and making breakfast and walking all day and being very tired in a very physical simple way. Apart from anything else it’s just a very good way to live life. Somehow I’ve found a way to make it into art.
(Quoted in Tufnell 2007, p.63.)

Being in the Moment suggests a process of absorption in landscapes; a process which, in the artist’s terms, requires one to ‘be in the moment’. This meditative engagement with the landscape may reflect the artist’s interest in Buddhist philosophy. Indeed critics such as Anne Seymour have drawn attention to affinities between Long’s practice and Japanese Zen Buddhism, from his interest in simplicity to his desire to work in the present moment (see Anne Seymour, Richard Long: Old World, New World, London 1988, pp.51–65). However, although Long learned about Zen philosophy early in his career, he does not regard this experience as a ‘big enlightenment’ (quoted in Tufnell 2007, p.79). Rather, his way of working shares with Zen Buddhism ‘just a sort of coincidental sensibility’ (quoted in Tufnell 2007, p.79).

Further reading
Richard Long, Walking the Line, London 2002.
Ben Tufnell (ed.), Richard Long: Selected Statements & Interviews, London 2007.
Ronald Mönig and Gerard Vermeulen (eds.), Richard Long: Prints 1970–2013, London 2013, p.166, reproduced pp.167–9.

Ruth Burgon
The University of Edinburgh
January 2014

The University of Edinburgh is a research partner of ARTIST ROOMS.