Saturday, August 08, 2009

The art of walking

The Richard Long exhibition at the Tate Britain is well worth it. Its quite a modest show with only a few rooms of photographs, sculptures and mud paintings, which is great, leaving you with more energy to devote to each piece.

Long began his career by getting of a train out of London and walking up and down in a field in 1967. He's been walking ever since, visiting many of the world's wildernesses, walking and camping and arranging stones in small circles or taking photos of lines he's walked into a trace.

There is something enormously satisfying and inspiring in equal amounts about Long's art. There is the simple coherence of the grand project itself: a celebration of the environment by walking it and capturing some of its moments. Then there is also the clear progression of ideas across his oeuvre: from the early grainy line photographs to the tracing of routes on maps (creating mandalas of the territory) and walks recorded as words - 'text works' (which have a Basho-esque joy of place to them) and finally, to the more conventional territory of museum exhibitions. Above all, there is the light touch modesty of it all. In the midst of an awesome landscape, a small circle of rocks placed by hand, that may or may not stay in place for a few thousand years. Just what humans have been doing for millennia, and not much more than this.


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