Earth Sky

I visited the Richard Long exhibition at Houghton Hall, indeed I chose a journey around the Hall and grounds as the subject for the second assignment of this course.

I was aware of the work of Richard Long from the History of Art modules I have studied previously, but this was the first opportunity I have had to see a range of Long’s works in a single setting. Apart from the sculptures, a number of Long’s Textworks were on display in one of the galleries and in another gallery there were several of his ‘paintings’.

I had seen photographs of Long’s work, but you do not get to appreciate the scale and beauty of them until you see them in situ. For example BARKHAM (2017) describes Houghton Cross as “Cornish slate exploding out of Houghton Hall’s croquet lawn” and I think that is a very apt description.

One of the exhibits, North South East West was inside the main house. O’FLAHERTY (2017) considered that “It brings the wild irregularity of nature inside, but ordered perfectly, as if by magic.” I found it a fascinating counterpoint to grandeur of the house itself, in the exhibition catalogue, O’NEILL & LONG (2017), the Marquess of Cholmondeley considers that the “slate and flint circle in the middle of the Stone Hall – the very centre of the house – is a dialogue with William Kent’s grandest and most sublime interior”.

One of the more intriguing exhibits was White Deer Circle, where tree stumps that have been uprooted on the estate, are inverted and placed in a circle. It seemed reminiscent of Seahenge (a 4000 year old Bronze Age timber circle found on the North Norfolk Coast). HALLETT (2017) describes it as “simultaneously a harmonious rearrangement of natural features in the landscape, and an outrageous perversion of natural order. The trees, apparently rooted in the air, seem to grow downwards into the ground”.

Apart from being the inspiration for my response to Assignment 2, I found it a fascinating exhibition and a real opportunity to study more closely an artist I had only previously seen in photographs. I was really interested in seeing Long’s use of geometric figures in his designs, particularly lies, circles and crosses. A very ordered, almost scientific, design within a natural setting. I did note though that the very stark designs, Houghton Cross and A Line in Norfolk were in formally arranged settings (the walled Garden and the Rear Lawn) whereas the wilder White Deer Circle was in the much less formal Deer Park. It was clear that the setting had a great influence on Long and where he would place his work.

I was also very pleased to have seen White Water Falls, white pigment tumbling down the black walls of the arched loggias of the Hall’s wings. There is a fascinating video of how Long put together this exhibition at https://www.houghtonhall.com/richard-long-at-houghton/

I particularly like the way Long is shown preparing for, and executing, the waterfall.

 

References

Barkham, P. (2017) Richard Long: ‘I’m proud of being the first person to cross Dartmoor in a straight line’. At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/apr/16/richard-long-earth-sky-houghton-hall-interview (Accessed on 11 October 2017)

Hallett, F. (2017) Richard Long: EARTH SKY at Houghton Hall. At: http://www.theartsdesk.com/visual-arts/richard-long-earth-sky-houghton-hall (Accessed on 11 October 2017)

O’Flaherty, M.C. (2017) Earthly delights: Richard Long unveils a series of art installations at Houghton Hall . At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/luxury/art/richard-long-earth-sky-houghton-hall/ (Accessed on 11 October 2017)