Richard Long, the four-times Turner Prize nominee and one-time winner (1989), is one of the leading figures of conceptual and land art. His latest exhibition at Houghton Hall in Norfolk is an inspired pairing. The location flawlessly blends his work in terms of scale, locality and sentiment. Each piece is given space to breathe and reflects the changing light and weather conditions. The work effortlessly feels like it has always been there. However, each work has been conceived to exist in a site-specific space.
‘I think part of the energy in my work is that I have the opportunity to make art in amazing, beautiful landscapes’ – Richard Long
Long has an established relationship with Houghton Hall and in particular with Lord Cholmondeley, the current owner whose taste in contemporary sculpture stretches to Rachel Whiteread, Stephen Cox, Anya Gallaccio, Jeppe Hein and Philip King – their works dotted around the extensive grounds of the stately home. Houghton Hall was originally built by Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole in around 1722 and designed by Colen Campbell and James Gibbs with interiors by William Kent. Long’s sculpture Full Moon Circle was commissioned for Houghton in 2003 and dominates the view from the raised ground rear terrace absorbing the wide expanse of the Norfolk sky.
What emanates from each work is a love for natural materials – oak and chestnut tree stumps from the estate, East Anglian flint, Cornish slate and local carr stone. Long is perfectly in tune with the environment. The full moon, weather conditions, points of the compass all play a significant role in the creation of his pieces and how they are viewed by the public. The Earth Sky in the title of the exhibition is not a pretentious conceit invented by the artist or curator but a truthful account of each sculpture in relation to its environment, changing its look and feel at different times of the day and during different weather conditions. The rain that greeted us during our visit only added to the glistening materials, reflecting the sky. What is more, Long proudly shares his satisfaction in having installed the work himself, revelling in the dynamic physical pleasure in ideas – the bonding of body and mind.
It is not only the grounds that benefits from this unique coupling as within the Stone Hall designed by William Kent in the grand Palladian house, Long has installed a work beneath the huge chandelier. North, South, East, West is a circle of slate and flint in greys, black and white formatted as compass coordinates. The jagged pieces of rock reflect the light from the two-tiered windows in a pantheistic manner.
Also inside, in the colonnades, is a display of mud paintings that are aboriginal in feel together with a display of historic material relating to Long’s career. In addition, in one of the gallery spaces, there are Long’s photographic records of his land works in the Antarctic and the Andes plus text-based pieces of walks he has completed such as a 33 day walk from Cornwall to Caithness monitoring Spring.
The James Turrell exhibition at Houghton Hall two years ago was a tough act to follow but Earth Sky is equally engaging and an experience not to be missed.
Words: Sara Faith – Photos Sara Faith / P C Robinson © Artlyst 2017