This black and white photograph depicts a view of a grassy, hilly field stretching into the background, framed on either side by two leafy trees in the middle distance and a grey cloudy sky above. What appears to be a white ellipse can be seen on the grass on a slope in the distance. In the foreground is a thin, black rectangular frame propped vertically on the grass so that it outlines the landscape beyond, including the white ellipse in the distance. Below the photograph on the off-white paper mount the artist has written ‘ENGLAND 1967’ in graphite pencil.
Long made England 1967 in Ashton Park near Bristol, the artist’s home town. The photograph documents a temporary sculptural work made in the landscape, a practice common in the artist’s work. However, the work is unusual for Long since it was not made using natural materials found directly on site. The white ellipse in the distance was made of curved segments of hardboard painted white and was pieced together to form a circle, although the angle of the slope and the position of the camera distort the circle’s true shape. The rectangle was positioned so that the circle could be viewed and photographed through it.
England 1967 became complete when the three elements – the circle, the rectangular frame and the camera – were aligned. Long has explained the concept behind the work:
The idea was the relationship between three places: the place of the white circle, the place of the black frame, and the place of the viewer. This was determined when the two elements of the sculpture became aligned, by the movement of the viewer, so that the circle was seen within the frame. Thus the photograph demonstrates the idea by recording the optimum viewing place of the sculpture. The work articulated space and distance with a sightline. It also connected with some ideas about relativity: the relative position of a viewer determines and is integral to what is perceived.
(Cited in Wallis 2009, p.57.)
In that the sightline is a constituent element of the work, the viewer is implicated in its realisation. The photograph acts as a stand-in for the viewer, since it records the alignment of the viewer with the other two objects that make up the piece. Long sees parallels between this and the way in which he uses photography to record his outdoor sculptures remarking: ‘often there is an optimum place for looking at a sculpture, or the best place, the most interesting, the most visually dynamic.’ (Long 1991, p.45.) Photography allows him to invert the usual practice of viewing sculpture in the round from multiple angles by fixing one viewpoint as ‘the most interesting’.
Long made England 1967 while he was still a student at St Martin’s School of Art in London, in the same year that he made A Line Made by Walking (Tate AR00142). At this time he was experimenting by making temporary work in various outdoor locations, including his family garden or areas local to Bristol, such as the Downs (see Tate AL00210) or in this case Ashton Park (see Tufnell 2007, p.113).
Long developed his investigations into alignment in later work, particularly in works for which straight lines are paramount, such as Walking A Line in Peru 1972 (reproduced in Wallis 2009, p.2), for which the artist walked in a straight line across a Peruvian plain, achieved ‘by aligning two notches on the horizon and keeping them in line’ (Long cited in Tufnell 2007, p.102).
The title of this work, and that of England 1968 (Tate AL00210), is unusual in that it only includes the name of the country and the year in which it was made, rather than offering a description of the work, such as A Line Made by Walking 1967 (Tate AR00142) or A Sculpture Left by the Tide 1970 (Tate AL00184). After making works in his back garden (see, for example, Turf Circle 1966, Tate P07148) Long began to make work that ‘progressed to the landscape of England, first’ (Long cited in Tufnell 2007, p.114). In this way the titles of England 1967 and England 1968 seem to assert Long’s identity as an English artist. Furthermore, Long’s choice of title and interest in alignment also calls to mind a particularly English tradition of landscaping: Ashton Park, the location England 1967, was landscaped in the eighteenth century by Humphry Repton who was known for creating vistas leading to monuments and churches.
Richard Long (ed.), Richard Long: Walking in Circles, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 1991, pp.44–5.
Ben Tufnell (ed.), Richard Long: Selected Statements & Interviews, London 2007, pp.61, 113.
Clarrie Wallis (ed.), Richard Long: Heaven and Earth, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2009, pp.56–7, reproduced pp.39, 40–1.
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