Richard Long: Quantock Wood Circle
“The source of my work is nature. I use it with respect and freedom.” —Richard Long
Turner Prize–winning artist Richard Long (b. 1945) is a pioneer of land art. His 1981 work Quantock Wood Circle consists of 285 weathered branches Long collected while walking in the Quantock Hills near his home in Somerset, England. With each stick roughly the same size and arranged in an ordered pattern on the floor, the sculpture traverses the line between nature and artifact, exploring the relationship between nature’s free-form beauty and our own mechanistic systems for measuring space and time. When viewed from above, Quantock Wood Circle resembles a map or an aerial plan, its circular shape an archetype associated with perfection, unity, and the infinite.
Installed in the YCBA’s Library Court among picturesque landscapes by Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788), George Stubbs (1724–1806), and Richard Wilson (1714–1782), the sculpture demonstrates Britain’s centuries-old artistic tradition of imposing order on nature and idealizing the English landscape. Since 1964, when he first photographed the tracks left by rolling a snowball through snow, Long has explored the intimate and fragile relationship between human beings and the landscape. The genesis of all his work is the fundamental human act of walking; by pausing to collect materials or create a sculpture, Long transforms a walk into a creative practice. Through text, photographs, sculptures, and paintings made from the materials he collects, Long documents the traces of his presence in the land, recording fleeting interactions between humans and nature.
Long is an internationally acclaimed artist whose work is held in museum collections around the world. In 1976 he represented Britain at the thirty-seventh Venice Biennale and in 1989 he was awarded the Turner Prize for his piece White Water Line, having been nominated three times prior. In 1990 Long was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and in 2009 he was awarded Japan’s Praemium Imperiale for sculpture. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 2001, received the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon Award in 2015 and was appointed a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II in 2018 for his services to the arts.
Works on the Floor Symposium
December 16, 2022
With its material connection to the English natural landscape, Quantock Wood Circle and its installation at the YCBA provoke questions about the piece’s relationship with Britain as a geographic landmass and a nation. The Works on the Floor symposium will look at floor sculpture by artists from around the world, investigating how land- and place-based identity play out through the materials, composition, and display of the objects.