There’s a small exhibition of works by Richard Long showing at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester at the moment. It only consists of four works – two constructions made from stone and two of his “textworks” painted on the wall of the gallery.
Richard Long’s work is very much linked to the landscape. He creates sculptures from stone (like the two on display at the Whitworth) and sticks and paintings made by daubing mud on the wall. He is also renowned for his “land art” where the works are created within or on the landscape itself, in many cases simply by walking through it.
Another aspect of his work are the “textworks” where he uses words to record observations, thoughts and feelings, and facts, and related to epic walks that he undertakes. These works are then transferred to the wall of galleries where he is exhibiting.
The two textworks included at the Whitworth are “A day’s walk across Dartmoor following a drift of clouds” which consists simply those words written in sky blue capitals on the white wall of the gallery. (We’d seen this before during our visit to the exhibition of his works at the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield last year) The more interesting work for me was "An eight day walk in the Cairngorm mountains Scotland 2007” (shown above).
To help us understand the world, it is often helpful to categorise, to put things in “little boxes”. But sometimes this doesn’t work as things are not always that simple and can fall between the boundaries, occupying more than one box. I think that Richard Long’s textworks are like that. They are words and can be considered in many ways to be poetic. (For me this is particularly true with "An eight day walk in the Cairngorm mountains Scotland 2007” ) . But they are painted on the wall and so are visual art as well, especially as the structure of the text has been clearly thought out. So in this work the pyramidal structure of the words is reminiscent of one of the stone cairns he would have encountered on his walk.
Visual art or poetry? Both, I think.
Other examples of Richard Long’s textworks can be seen on his website here.