View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Untitled is a suite of three lithographic prints signed and numbered by the artist in an edition of forty. This suite is number twenty-five in the edition. The lithographs were printed on Nepalese hemp paper by James Miller and Maurice Sánchez at Derrière L’Etoile Studios in New York. They were published by Brooke Alexander Editions, New York. The geometric patterns they depict were created from fingerprints made in a thick, mud-like substance on mylar. Long used the tip of his index finger to imprint the marks. The resulting diagrams were made into plates and printed in black ink on sand-coloured paper.
Long has commented: ‘My work is really a self portrait, in all ways. So, for example, to walk across a country is both a measure of the country itself (its size, shape and terrain) and also of myself (how long it takes me and not somebody else). In other works, like my hand circles in mud, or waterlines, my work is more obviously an image of my gestures.’ (Quoted in Richard Long: São Paulo Bienal, p.6.) Long’s work with mud, comprising circles, rings, spirals and lines of hand and foot prints all made in mud, originated in his observation of prints left by his feet outdoors in the earth. He makes his imprints, as well as a form of gestural drawing with mud, directly on gallery and museum floors and walls. The hand or foot prints in his drawings not only suggest an elemental form of mark-making without any specific cultural references, but also refer to the artist himself in a very precise way, since the prints are entirely his own.
Resembling the tribal patternings made by ‘primitive’ peoples, the marks in this suite of Untitled lithographs have a simple rhythmic logic. They embody the principle behind all of Long’s work, in all media, which unites man-made geometric structures and nature’s organic elements. The rectangular spiral, circle and two sets of three parallel straight lines depicted on these three prints provide the structure for the artist’s ‘primitive’ markings. Long has said that he is ‘interested in the emotional power of simple images’ (quoted in Richard Long: São Paulo Bienal, p.6). The reductive simplicity of his fingerprint patterns emphasises the rich contrast in materials, the very dark ink on the light-coloured, heavily textured, thick paper resulting in a stark, burnt-out effect.
Untitled 1991 (Tate T06555) is a drawing Long made using mud on paper. The Slate and Limestone Drawings 2002 (Tate P78717-78720) are prints created from rubbings taken from the surface of slabs of slate and limestone. The linear texture of the imprints created from these rocks recalls the striations of human fingerprints.
Richard Long: Walking in Circles, exhibition catalogue, South Bank Centre, London 1991
Richard Long: São Paulo Bienal 1994, exhibition catalogue, The British Council, London 1994
Richard R. Brettell, Dana Friis-Hansen, Richard Long: Circles Cycles Mud Stones, exhibition catalogue, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston 1996
November 2000/February 2004