The whole project is actually called ‘Lines of Desire‘, but was billed to us as a masterclass. What this actually entailed was a group visit to Richard Long’s retrospective at the Arnolfini on Tuesday, plus going to see Boyhood Line on the Clifton Downs; and an invitation-only lecture by him on Wednesday at the Uni, which lasted slightly under an hour.
It was my second visit to the exhibition, and I did get more from it, especially as we had an introduction to each gallery with more background information on the work. Basically, his art begins and ends with walking. To some extent, the walking IS the sculpture. Photos of interventions in the landscape using found materials are another form of the artwork, and his text pieces are about the concept, the idea. When he was studying and starting work in the Sixties and Seventies, avant-garde artists were attempting to move away from art as objects in galleries, making work that was harder to buy and sell. They were focusing on the ideas of art rather than its commercial value, and wanted to make the viewer do some work, using the imagination.
Richard Long is that rare beast, an internationally-acclaimed artist who still lives and works were he grew up – in Bristol. He uses specific materials in his gallery work, such as River Avon mud, or stones from two particular quarries. His mark-making palette consists of circles, lines and crosses, used by humanity for millennia and situating himself in the landscape.
The upstairs vitrines showed samples of his book works, and I learnt about his print works in the gallery bookshop. Then we set off to find the recent piece Boyhood Line, which took a lot of wandering around on the Downs in the glorious sunshine. Oh, how we suffer for our art.
Wednesday started with Reflections, various questions we had to answer individually and in groups towards devising our collaborative responses. I liked the text pieces we produced and decided to work further with these texts and the photographs we’d all submitted from the first day’s campus exploration.
I took two pages of notes from the lecture and found it interesting to hear his own perspective on his work, as opposed to where others would place it. He emphasised the walk as the sculpture, saying that he is an opportunist, producing work in the moment and enjoying the freedom to do so. His works are often ephemeral, he will sometimes scatter the materials used after documenting with a photograph, but other pieces are still extant after twenty years. He does not signpost them and is not bothered whether they are seen or not, preferring them to be anonymous. He is interested in alignments and measurements, and stresses the fact that his art is not conceptual as the works are real physical acts or events.
Lots more to think about. An intense few days so far! In terms of my own work, perhaps less of a focus on things, making objects – I have indeed worked out how to record with my tablet, and save to Soundcloud. I may be working on my first GoogleSlide show to go up on the Media Wall in Commons building… I have plenty of ideas as to how to incorporate these new ideas into my practice this year, but for now, a few photos to end with.