Richard Long departed from traditional forms of sculpture while he was still a student, shifting the focus of his work into the landscape. His medium is walking. His walks take place in many different parts of the world, yet he does not propagate any romantic notion of nature. Instead, his work is stringently realistic.
Long takes notes about moments in time. The words, printed on panels, do not describe the path he has taken, nor do they describe his experiences. They are lists of facts, rather than poetry. Long juxtaposes words like stones or pieces of wood: sculptures made of language. The photographs of his walks show traces that Long has found or left behind him on his journey – paths trodden by repeatedly walking them, lines and circles of stones. A circle of stones forms a human trace amongst the many stones in nature. By lifting up the stones and replacing them in another form, he evokes a manifestation of the wanderer. Long then went on to introduce similar signs into galleries and museums. But whereas the stone piles and stone circles in nature were gathered from the pathways he trod, Long sought out local quarries as the source of material for his exhibitions. His sculptures come across as some familiar landmark. This notion is underpinned not only by his use of stones, but also of such elementary materials and turf and driftwood, as well as by the fundamental forms of line and circle.
Mud from the River Avon near his home town of Bristol, together with white clay, have served the artist in his creation of linear and circular drawings. For these, he uses a base of flat, used objects found on his travels – sheet metal, wooden posts, tent-pegs and writing tablets. Recently, Long has been working on large-format prints using a carborundum technique with painterly effects. The titles of these prints are taken from some of his favourite songs. Like the stones, the twigs and the fingerprints, the hand-painted prints leave a trace of human presence in the world.