The art of walking and the art of Richard Long

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By Asmita Sarkar

the art of walking

All us “green people” know about the benefits of cycling as opposed to riding a car. Let’s take a look at something more primitive than cycling. I am talking about the ancient art of walking. With the advent of industrialization, we frequently forget the importance of travelling by foot. Sometimes travelling by foot and crossing a stretch of land – be it a city, village or a pristine stretch of wood – opens up entirely new perspectives in front of us. Appreciating ecology is an added incentive gained from the experience of walking.

Contemporary performance artists have taken the experience of walking to a whole new level. Landscape artists make objects and alter the characteristic of a land. There is one artist, in particular, who married land art with the performance of walking.

ALSO WATCH: Andres Amador’s earthscape art

The artist’s name is Richard Long (b.1945). He is a British artist whose practice is a mix of landscape photography, sculpture and performance.

Have you ever noticed the traces and marks we make when we move around? When we move around, we always leave some trace in nature. Footprints are the most prominent of them. The classic work of art “A line made by walking’’ is the photograph of a path made by the artist Richard Long. In his student years in Central St Martin School of Art (London UK), he put up a performance in the garden of his university, where he walked back and forth along a straight line creating a visible path, made only by the touch of his feet on the ground.

Apparently mundane, this artwork heralded in a new era of performance art and it shows that, to make land art, one does not have to alter the characteristic of the land, or  to add new materials to the land.

Since then, Long has moved on to the making of new land arts using footprints and other traces of his walking. He made sculptural ecological artworks too, using traces and gestures. He also makes paintings that are displayed in galleries, using muds, leaves and natural water.

His works are regularly displayed in high-end art galleries in London and worldwide. It is common that just by looking at them the viewer can experience empathy, love for nature and a genuine human concern. Long always spreads the mud with his hands and viewer can feel the sense of touch just looking at these pieces. We cannot overlook the embedded aesthetic feelings inherent in these artworks.

Richard Long takes photographs thus making the traces of walking eternal. These photographs are also very  stimulating aesthetically speaking. They invite the audience to join the artist in walking. Cycling is a good mode of transport, since it saves fuel. Walking may not be a practical mode of transport, but walking is good for the soul.

When we move, we go from point A to B in a straight line, and we sometimes forget that the space that surrounds us is not a straight line but a magical meshwork of possibility. Walking sometimes opens up a whole array of possibility and discoveries. Richard Long uses repetitive patterns (mainly circles) to indicate the eternity and universality of walking.

The traces and gestures inherent in the work of Richard Long open up a multitude of possibility. Let’s see for example the piece with pebbles: this piece does not alter the nature of the land and stands as a commentary on the gesture and movement of walking in a circle.

Richard Long is an artist who has created a new trend in contemporary art. The slogan being: “walking as an art form.’’ We will talk more about this trend in the future.

MORE ON: Richard Long’s official website

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