Richard Long: Heaven and Earth, room guide: room 1

Richard Long Earth 2009 mud applied to the wall in a striped pattern on a black background

Richard Long
Earth 2009

© Richard Long

I was attracted to these ancient Chinese symbols mostly for the power of the images. The I Ching, or the Book of Changes, comprises sixty-four hexagrams which are neither language nor abstract art but something in between. They are all based on variations of eight trigrams representing the natural elements. Their meanings are very open and poetic and universal, like mountain, tranquillity, river, change or wind. Heaven, six solid lines, and Earth, six broken lines, are the two basic images of which all the others are permutations. For me they represent the opposites and balances in nature, and in my work. Sky and ground. The complementary mental and physical aspects of my art – the intellect but also instinctive spontaneous primitive mark making.

Heaven and Earth are made with mud mixed with a lot of water. Rivers run through my work and water is a major element of my art. My regular, local and best source of mud is the River Avon in Bristol, where I grew up. The mud is formed by the second highest tides in the world.

Explore this work in more detail in Works in Focus