Richard Long

Art & Project

In his recent work, Richard Long unexpectedly appears as a kind of painter. On the white walls of the gallery are huge monochrome circles, two in brownish gray and one in a warmer reddish-brown; within the circles the white wall is left visible at intervals, thus implying not only a flat ornament but also structure and depth. Long painted with his hands, dipping his fingers in mud and clay with which he then covered the walls in a tense, rhythmic motion. Because of the supple and continuous movement of his fingers, the paintings have an overall structure that is both dynamic and controlled. On the one hand, their patterns remind one of intricate latticework; on the other, they recall the organic feeling of old landscape etchings.

The connections with Long’s past work—especially with the book in which he used mud from the River Avon on the pages, enabling the viewer to “read” the river—are obvious. River Avon Mud Circle and Red Clay Circle also relate to the circles of driftwood that Long has made for many years. What distinguishes them from these earlier sculptures is the suppleness and sensuousness of the new medium, which enable Long to convey different moods and sensations. Making an abstract image of nature out of nature’s own materials, Long evokes the rhythms of flowing water and of moving earth in a river by using mud from the river itself.

In this impressive show, in which Long made his largest mud circles so far (previous works were presented in London and Lyons), he created a complement to his landscape photography. Both strongly evoke nature, but in quite different ways. It is always fascinating to see an artist find new formulations while remaining true to his central concerns; this is the more welcome in a period when eclecticism seems to be the only avenue for most “new” painters.

Saskia Bos