Richard Long’s fifth solo exhibition at Galleria Lorcan O’Neill is dedicated to mud paintings, with a selection of works starting from 2005 up to works made in the past two months on canvas and on Fabriano paper. The show also includes a line made on site using Italian Serpentino stone.
Long has made many mud paintings in locations all over the world, predominantly major art museums and galleries. Usually they are on the wall; occasionally they are made on the floor; and since 2003 on board or canvas. Varying the source of the mud and the form of the area in which it is worked generates different type of works: spirals, circles, cascades and lines of muddy hand and foot prints.
Long's primary source of mud is the River Avon, near his birthplace and home in Bristol.
“I always have a precise idea of the overall form of the work, which is balanced by the spontaneity of the execution – says Richard Long – The speed of the hand gestures is important because that’s what makes the splashes, which shows the wateriness of the mud, and water is the main subject and content of these works, they show its nature. It is that sort of cosmic variety that I'm interested in: like all stones are different, all fingerprints are different, all clouds are different, every splash is different, every walk is different, one never steps in the same river twice.”
“Each piece as art provides me with an ideal way to explore the relationship between time, distance, geography, and topographical measure.”
By bringing gathered materials into the gallery to make arrangements on the floor – linear patterns or solid circles filled evenly with stones, slate, wood and so on – or paintings applied with mud by hand on to wall and panels, Long recreates the experience of a landscape inside, asserting an ongoing relationship to the land. His mud paintings draw a line from cave painting forwards, looking at mark making and human interaction within the landscape; and are testimony of a radical adherence to natural means and working within the capability of the human body.
Richard Long has been in the vanguard of Land art in Britain since he created A Line Made by Walking in 1967: this photograph of the trail left by his feet in the grass in the landscape, established a precedent that has given way to interventions in all parts of the world. Long structures his experience of terrain from mountains to valleys, beaches, deserts, rivers and snowscapes, according to archetypal geometric marks and shapes, made by his footsteps alone or gathered from local raw materials, which are left as evidence on site. These ephemeral interventions are documented with photographs, maps and texts, where the measurements of distances walked, place names and sightings are vocabulary for powerful, condensed poetry.
Although he more readily related to his contemporaries – Hamish Fulton, Carl Andre or Lawrence Weiner – Richard Long is associated consistently with the American emergence of Land Art, environmental art and the Earth Works initiated around 1967. Like them, the sculptor uses the frame and the materials of nature; like them, his works created in situ sustain the erosion of time of which nothing is left but photographic souvenirs.