Richard Long is well known for his interventions in the natural landscape based on epic walks. In the late 1960s, artists began to move beyond depicting the natural world to start to use it as a setting or even a medium for their work. As a student at St Martins College, London at this time, Long was already making works that have been closely associated with this movement - Land Art - like A Line Made by Walking 1967, where he walked back and forth in a straight line through grass and photographed the trail made. To bring his experience of nature back into the gallery space, he later extended this practice to creating and photographing sculptures using materials found in these landscapes (both at the site itself or in the gallery), creating text works, or later still applying mud in by hand directly to a gallery wall. He has walked many different terrains; both in the UK particularly in the south west of England around his home town of Bristol, and internationally, often in deserted and spectacular wild landscapes.
“…Walking - as art - provided a simple way for me to explore relationships between time, distance, geography and measurement. These walks are recorded in my work in the most appropriate way for each different idea: a photograph, a map, or a text work. All these forms feed the imagination.”
This work, A Line in the Himalayas 1975, is one of several works that resulted from a walk in the Nepalese Himalayas that Long made in 1975. The photograph records a line of white stones arranged by the artist, which stretch towards the mountain peaks in the distance. With no human or animal presence of any kind, it is hard to gauge the scale of the stones which appear to encompass a great distance. The line is a key motif in Long’s work. Lines imposed on the environment are usually the result of processes creating roads - pathways between two points. However, unlike a straight “as the crow flies” line on a map, the paths are affected by the contours of the landscape, taking on a physicality of their own. The straightness of Long’s lines makes them both part of and separate to the landscape, both natural and man-made.
“My work really is just about being a human being living on this planet and using nature as its source. I like the intellectual pleasure of original ideas and the physical pleasure of realising them. A long road or wilderness walk is basically walking all day and sleeping all night. I enjoy the simple pleasures of wellbeing, independence, opportunism, eating, dreaming, happenstance, of passing through the land and sometimes leaving (memorable) traces along the way, of finding a new campsite each night. And then moving on.”.
You can explore more of Long’s work in the past exhibition Richard Long: Heaven and Earth.