© Richard Long. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2023.


Richard Long (1945 – )


239 X 130 CM
Accession number


A footpath is a footpath and it is probably the same in China as in Scotland. It is just one stone after another.
Richard Long, 1991[1]

A footpath is a footpath and it is probably the same in China as in Scotland. It is just one stone after another.
Richard Long, 1991[1]

For over four decades Richard Long has set about uniting the acts of walking and sculpture, creating momentary, barely perceptible interventions in the landscape and recording them with carto¬graphic precision and economy. In 1967, while at St Martin’s School of Art in London, Long made the silently iconic work A Line Made by Walking, which consisted of his walking in a line in a field, and then recording the flattened grass in a photograph.[2] The line’s simplicity etches itself onto the brain. It is a gesture that is at once minimal, uni¬versal and complex: a temporal instant in which the artist is both absent and present. It is as if he has walked out of the moment and into the flux of history, somehow embedded in the photographic record without being in the picture. Hamish Fulton has said, ‘When I see an exhibi¬tion of Richard Long’s art I savour what I imagine were the decisions, some ideas even causing me to laugh, in appreciation.’[3] We imagine a lone figure enigmatically ordering nature into an instant of harmonious precision. His process is organised and ambulatory, considered but also meaningless; that is to say, quite simply the sum of its parts.

For Long, the straight line has an ‘intellectual beauty’, whilst the sculptures ‘directly feed the senses’.[4] Mind and body are simultaneously satisfied: unity and separation at once achieved. The immediacy of the stones forces the viewer to seek to place them, to absorb and unravel their context: how they came to be in the landscape, how they gave the landscape certain qualities, and then how the semi-shamanistic activi¬ties of Long have imbued them with a whole new set of meanings. It forces the viewer to see the blank white walls of the gallery environment in which the stones now find themselves as a perfectly evolved reposi¬tory for the appreciation of aesthetic beauty. These walls are unnatural, and yet wholly fitting, and Long reminds us that it is urban Modernism that provides the frame from which the beauty of the natural world is being perceived.

Long brings many histories to moments of alignment: the history of the land, the history of its inhabitants, the history of art and his own history at a certain point. His works could be said to traverse a ley line between Arte Povera and Conceptual art. They have a quiet privacy which is somewhat removed from the clatter of earth-moving machin¬ery in the assured hands of American Land Artists such as Robert Smithson or Michael Heizer. By contrast, Long’s interventions are hardly interventions at all. Something is picked up and put back down again. A straightforward record is made. He walks on.


[1]. Long in interview with Richard Cork, in Richard Long: Walking in Circles, exh. cat. (London: South Bank Centre, 1991), 249.
[2]. Tate Collection, London.
[3]. Hamish Fulton, ‘Old Muddy’, in Richard Long (1991), 243.
[4]. Long in interview with Richard Cork, 249.

Published in Passports British Council Collection, British Council, London 2009