Richard Long: The Spike Island Tapes At Alan Cristea Gallery

The ‘Spike Island Tapes’ is Richard Long’s first solo exhibition at the Alan Cristea Gallery, where the artist is presenting a new series of monumental carborundum relief prints. Not only does this new body of work mark the first time Long has used this medium, but they are the largest prints the artist has ever made, and include some of his most colourful works to date.

The British artist Richard Long makes sculptures, photographs and text works documenting his journeys around the world, including long walks across Dartmoor in south Devon, England to the icy peaks of the Ellsworth Mountains in Antarctica. The artist has been at the forefront of conceptual art in Britain since he created A Line Made by Walking in 1967.

Then 22 years old and a student at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London, Long walked back and forth along a straight line in the grass in the English countryside, leaving a track that he then photographed in black and white. The work was taken as the milestone in contemporary art, that balanced the line between performance and sculpture, and saw the artist closely associated with the emergence of ‘Land Art’.

Long has also worked with silkscreen and offset printing, alongside etching and lithography over four decades of printmaking. The artist was approached by the Alan Cristea Gallery in 2013 with the idea of making carborundum relief prints, as this would give Long the opportunity to work directly with his hand on the plate, thus replicating the technique he uses when making his mud works.

The artist has explored a number of ways of working with the new medium, including propping plates vertically against the wall, enabling him to work fast at the top of the plates, generating cascading ‘out-takes’ of his hand marks. The exhibition will comprise seventeen new works created from twelve 4 x 8 foot aluminium plates.

Four panels produced by the artist will be hung together in an immersive five metre wide print. Other prints have been produced by first masking out shapes such as circles or spirals and then covering the plates with paste using his bare hands. Some works have been printed in mud-coloured ink, whilst a number are coloured in vibrant reds and greens carefully selected by the artist.

Spike Island is a contemporary arts centre in Bristol near to Long’s home, where the artist conceived, developed and proofed the prints for the exhibition. For Richard Long, working at Spike Island was comparable to a musician going into a recording studio for a few days, to lay down some new tracks. He has named all the prints in the exhibition after songs or music ‘he just likes’. In point of fact the exhibition’s title ‘The Spike Island Tapes’ could be seen as an oblique reference to The Nashville Tapes, which is a selection of songs recorded by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash 46 years ago.

Richard Long: The Spike Island Tapes – Alan Cristea Gallery – 20th Feb 2015 – 2nd Apr 2015

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