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July 30 2012

Richard Long's cycling art shows British landscape at its best

The UK artist's 'river' of paint along the road-cycling track in Surrey pays tribute to the beauty of the Olympics' British setting

If you enjoyed the Olympic cycling road races at the weekend and cheered Britain's first silver medal for Lizzie Armitstead, you may have noticed a curious graffiti painted on one stretch of the road. It is, in fact, a permanent work of art that will serve as a landscape legacy of one the first sports in this year's Olympics. It is called Box Hill Road River and was created by the British artist Richard Long.

In the middle of the night, Long poured paint in a continual squiggly line for 100 metres along the road. You can see him doing it here. Usually, Long paints with mud, but here he has used road paint, making a continuous, rolling, flowing gesture – a "river" of paint, as the title calls it.

Long's art is all about landscape, the human body and movement, so cycling is a natural sport for him to ornament. The epic journey of the road-race cyclists out of London and around Box Hill is similar to Long's walking artworks. Since the 1960s, he has embarked on walks through landscapes, from forbidding mountains to English valleys, making non-obstrusive artworks (such as arrangements of sticks) along the way, and documenting each walk in photographs and texts. Painting with mostly natural materials is another side of his reflection on the human place in the landscape. His Olympic road painting in Surrey is a primeval marking, akin to the chalk figures carved on British hillsides in its quiet mystery.

Box Hill is itself a marker of landscape, a land-mark. In the 18th century, when people were just starting to see Britain as "picturesque", it was thought to be quite a mountain. One of the earliest British landscape paintings is called A View of Box Hill, Surrey. It was painted by George Lambert in 1733 and is in the Tate collection. In this picture, Box Hill is a mighty mass rising above a golden countryside against a luminous sky. The most famous portrayal of this landmark is, however, literary – a disastrous day out on Box Hill in Jane Austen's 1815 novel Emma.

All very British, and the cycle races this weekend served, like Long's art, to make us see the landscape. It looked great, didn't it? In the summer rain, Surrey was deep green. As Olympic events take place against British landmarks, we are getting a great view of our land. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

June 22 2012

Second nature: Richard Long at Hepworth Wakefield – in pictures

Legendary land artist Richard Long arrives at Hepworth Wakefield as part of the Artist Rooms UK tour. Watch him hard at work on an all-new cascading commission

May 04 2011

Richard Long: Berlin Circle / Nationalgalerie at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin

The Nationalgalerie at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart in Berlin / Germany just opened an exhibition with six floorworks and a recently made mud wall work of the English sculptor, photographer and painter Richard Long.

The exhibition titled “Richard Long: Berlin Circle” is the first solo show in Germany of works by Richard Long in a major museum in almost ten years. The title of the exhibition refers to the eponymous work “Berlin Circle”, dating from 1996, which features in the Sammlung Marx. The works on display are “Sandstone Circle, 1977″; “Black and White Circle, 1988″; “Turf Line, 1990″; Berlin Circle, 1996″; “Autumn Turf Circle, 1998″; “Basalt Ellipse, 2000″; and the wall work “River Avon Mud Circle, 2011″.

See also our coverage of Richard Long’s show at Haunch of Venison Berlin in 2008, where he presented a floor sculpture in local stone, a mud wall work, and driftwood works and prints. Another video shows his participation in a group show at Ruzicska in Salzburg in 2008.

Richard Long: Berlin Circle has been curated by Prof. Dr. Eugen Blume with the curatorial assistance by Dr. Katharina Schlüter. The publication “Richard Long. Berlin Circle“ will puplished at the end of April. Press release after the jump.

Richard Long: Berlin Circle / Nationalgalerie at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin. Video by

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.

From the press release:

Richard Long (*1945, Bristol, England) is one of the leading protagonists of ‘Land Art’, along with Michael Heizer, Walter de Maria and Robert Smithson. Coinciding with the first ecological movements in the USA and Europe, Land Art was first created in the 1960s by artists working concurrently but sepa- rately from each other, as a critical reaction to the classical genre of sculpture and the commercial art market. The transient and site-specific works, hewn in and from nature, were first unveiled to the public in 1968 in the ‘Earthworks’ exhibition at the Dwan Gallery in New York. A year later, in 1969, Gerry Schum coined the term ‘Land Art’ in his television programme of the same name, and it has been used ever since.

Richard Long uses the movement of his own body, the act of rambling and walking in the countryside as both the gauge and medium for his art. One of his earliest and most well-known works, ‘A Line Made by Walking’, from 1967, consisted in him pacing up and down a field in a straight line so often that a line was drawn in the grass, which the artist then captured on film in the form of a photograph. For over 40 years now, subsequent larger works have been created outdoors all over the world, in England, Canada, Japan and Bolivia: composed of large stone circles or lines made of wood. These temporary works are then documented in photographs. In contrast to such companions of his as Heizer and Smithson, Long’s works do not amount to an intervention in nature, executed in a series of great gestures, for he instead works with material already at hand.

Since he started out as an artist, Long has, however, also shown works in in- terior spaces. Here too, sculptures are created with archetypal forms of wood or stone: ovals, lines or circles. Long explains his choice of form as follows: ‘I like to use the symmetry of patterns between time, between places and time, between distance and time, between stones and distance, between time and stones. I choose lines and circles because they do the job.’

It is befitting then that the main work in the Hamburger Bahnhof exhibition, ‘Berlin Circle’, is a circle of stone, twelve metres in diameter, laid out on the floor. ‘Berlin Circle’ is an important work in the Sammlung Marx and was first unveiled and installed by the artist for the opening of the Hamburger Bahnhof in 1996. It serves as a thematic focal point in today’s exhibition, emphasising one of the artist’s core forms: the circle. Five other floor pieces are also on display in the historical hall, along with films by and on the artist.

‘My art is in the nature of things’ says Long, referring to the topicality of his works. By being consistently set in places where the nature of things appears in the works, they also throw light on questions in today’s discourse on the relationality, performativeness, transgressions and spatiality of art.

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