I found the introduction to this project slightly confusing because it starts with a distinction between land art and earth art:
Land art – a conceptually based approach to making art work ‘represents the artists experience of visiting or travelling to or through it (the land)’
Earth art ‘involves direct intervention with, and often the use of, the raw materials of a landscape’ (OCA, 2013) p. 71)
It then goes on to describe Richard Long as a land artist, yet an exhibition I saw recently in which included some of Long’s work and much of the content of his website would suggest to me that he is an earth artist.
Six Stone Circles, London, 1981 © Richard Long
I first came across Richard Long at one of my fist OCA study visits in April 2016, when I went to see ‘Conceptual Art in Britain, 1964 – 1979’ at Tate Britain, reflection here. One of the exhibits was ‘A line made by walking’, 1967 and it was one of the exhibits I could relate to, partly because of the idea of walking that line enough times to create the path which he then photographed. Then whilst on holiday in Avignon a couple of months ago, I attended an exhibition in Collection Lambert, the Museum of Contemporary Art, reflected on here, which included work entitled ‘Beyond Landscape’ and within that, black and white photographs by Hamish Fulton and a ‘Slate Path’ by Richard Long.
From Beyond Landscape, at the Collection Lambert, Avignon, 2018. Featuring Richard Long’s Slate Path
The ‘Snake Path’ fascinated me in particular, though did wonder at the environmental ethics of removing natural material from the landscape for the purpose of creating a gallery exhibit and so Long’s objection to Smithson, Heizer and Christo and Jeanne-Claude surprised me slightly. Granted they are huge, absorbing the land and certainly in Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s case, I would question whether or not they fit into their environment, but pots and kettles came to mind.
I found the talk by Clarrie Wallace, which we were asked to listen to, quite hard work. Although she speaks clearly she talks very quickly, which is a problem for me. It is also almost an hour-long and this is a visual medium, where she is clearly using slides which of course we cannot see. Had the lecture been filmed rather than just recorded, I might have found it easier. Wallace talks about Long’s early life as an artist, his thinking and influences to his work and some of the rules he set himself, for example, walk 1 mile, take two photographs, one in an upwards direction and one downwards, so although there is a structure and framework to his work, there is also a randomness because he has no idea what he will find. She goes on to discuss a number of his sculptures, many of which are in the Tate exhibition, Heaven and Earth, which this lecture introduces. I did try to follow the sculptures discussed on Long’s website but this was too difficult because although they come under that heading of exhibition, the exhibitions are not named and you have to go into each of the images in turn.
So what did I get from this lecture? It is clear that Long’s art is driven by a love of nature and walking and his direct experience of the land. Sometimes the walk itself becomes the art for example in his text work. I can see that Long’s work is very different from that of Smithson, Heizer and Christo and Jeanne-Claude in that he is using only natural materials and perhaps doesn’t have the huge budgets which they need for their installations but perhaps that his just sour grapes on Long’s part and I still have an issue with removing the amount material from the landscape which he must need for some of his work. I do like the idea of setting rules such as, walk 1 mile, take to photographs, etc., although it would be a challenge for me as it would mean relinquishing some control. I also think that there is a lot more research to be done on Richard Long and wonder if this might be an option for my critial review for assignment 4.
Mondoza walking, Buenos Aires, 2014 © Richard Long
Sean O’Hagan’s interview in the Guardian in May 2009, is less in depth than Clarrie Wallace’s lecture but more human too. We learn that Long was thrown out of the West of England Art Collage in 1964 for what we would probably now call contemporary art but back then was seen as madness. From Wallace, we learnt that he then spent two years at St Martin’s School of Art, obviously more innovative and broad-minded than the first, where he flourished and the contemporary nature of his art was embraced. You get a sence of the person and the passion from the O’Hagan interview, yes, definately more research to be done.
I can see where more conceptual work such as Liz Nicol’s cyanotypes and Ian Brown’s dreamy landscape compilations, where each photograph represents one journey fits with the definition of land art but a search of the Lens Culture site using both categories produced very similar results for both. Researching this also drew my mind back to my dummy run for assignment 2. I was concerned that the photographs I have taken were marred because of dirty train windows, the glare of the sun and not being in control when taking photographs when the train was moving, however I got very positive feedback from fellow students at last week’s Landscape Hangout. The general feeling was that if I was looking for perfect images then I needed to find a different way of making my journey and that the dirt, glare etc. added another layer of interest to the images. So could these images be described as ‘land art’ even when they were taken from inside the train? They certainly represent my experience of the journey.
One artist whose work I have seen recently, and whom I feel definitely falls into the category of land art, for some of her recent work at least, is Helen Sear. I visited her ‘Prospect Refuge Hazard 2’ exhibition at Hestercombe in August, here, and went back for the artist’s symposium Disrupted Views, here, in October.
Caetera Fumus – Durantran Light-box, 210cm x 171cm – 2015 © Helen Sear
Her ‘Greek Goddess’ tree roots and Caetera Fumus, where she has ‘directly intervened with the natural material’ (OCA, 2013), possibly constitute earth art although two videos, that I have watched again since I came home; Wahaha Biota and The Beginning and End of Things are definitely land art for me.
Wahaha Biota is a 28 minute long video resulting from a year-long art residency in Dalby Forest, where Sear followed and filmed the management of the forest from ploughing and cutting, to planting saplings, to the gamekeeper doing his rounds, to a young deer being cleaned and gutted. The sound track is a mix of natural noises; birdsong etc., and lyrics from some of the many artists who have played in the forest. I found this film mesmerizing. The Beginning and End of Things is projected onto the bare floor boards which, I thought added to the effect. I imagine it is a mix of 2 films, one up into the tree canopy and the other into a moving pond. Again, I couldn’t peal my eyes away from the film. There are still a number of videos on Helen Sear’s website that I am slowly working my way through.
I have found this project really interesting with so many ways of bringing nature and natural experiences into art. The problem I have with research such as this is that I have a tendency to get drawn into it and forget to move on.