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Richard Long

November 7, 2012

So is the photograph above art ?

I’ll come back to that question in a moment.  I feel incredibly fortunate that not far from where I live I have both the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the amazing new kid on the block The Hepworth Gallery, which was rightly shortlisted for the Sterling Architecture prize.  However great as the architecture of the gallery is, it’s what goes on inside it that is most important for me.  In it’s short life I have been consistently wowed by the work that has been displayed and I look forward with each visit to being challenged and informed in equal measure.  I don’t know much about art, am not trained in it in any way and have never studied it, but I hope that my approach as bumbling amateur gives me a freshness to look at things and the constant ability to be surprised.  I’ve not known many of the artists that have so far been displayed at the Hepworth but I was very excited over the summer when I heard that they were going to have a Richard Long season and that he was going to produce two new works for the show.

The first new piece was the line in the grass above which is a reprise of his classic A Line Made By Walking from 1967 and the second was Waterfall below

What was brilliant for me about the show was the conversations that it enabled me to have with my kids about what is art.  Both of these ‘pieces’ (like much of Richard’s work) were temporary  – the grass will be cut and the wall will be painted over – so they only exist for a short space in time.  This goes against the whole notion of art as a ‘piece of art’ as much of Richard’s work you would not know had ever existed if photographs had not been taken of it.  The kids were not convinced by the line in the grass as being art or indeed the line of stones at the Sculpture Park which accompanied this exhibition and looked very tempting for some sort of game of hopscotch ! but they were happy with the Water fall and indeed the stones circles.  We chatted about both the stones circles and the grass both effectively being natural objects that were being placed in a particular way and it was fascinating to get their view on it.  This was brilliantly helped by the family resources that the Hepworth produce (which to my mind are some of the best I’ve seen at a museum) that really get children to look at the art and think about it in a way that is interesting, informative and never patronizing.

I personally thought the exhibition was stunningly brilliant, there was a real ephemeral feel to the work that made me think of our own small transitory part in the world together with that of the nature that is all around us.  So big thumbs up from me, for the work, the way the exhibition enabled discovery and illumination in children and adults alike.  Can’t wait for the next event.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2012 8:14 am

    I am with your children. Much of abstract, and even more so, this temporary stuff, leaves me cold and wondering why someone paid good money to get hold of it. A question that I have never been able to answer is * Is Art the IDEA alone or is it the IDEA + EXECUTION ? * It seems to me we are now trending towards the IDEA alone and the execution is immaterial. But if that is the case, does that affect all great ideas of the past? Mathematics, if you tink up an equation but cannot prove it, is that ART?

    • Ian Street permalink*
      November 8, 2012 3:14 pm

      thanks for commenting. I know what you mean to some extent, I suspect that some complex maths – particularly around patterns may well be considered art. For me I like art the engages me in some way be that visual, mentally, technically etc and with Long’s work, irrespective of the temporary nature of lots of it I find myself drawn to it. I think the very nature of it’s temporary nature forces me to confront my own temporary life on this planet which without disappearing up my own backside is something I find quite profound. The money side of it is a different thing altogether I’d besides photos of his work and commissions I have no idea how he makes money out of art that in many cases ceases to exist. I’ll have to ponder that one. What was great about this though was the ability to have these sort of discussions with kids as the resources were so well presented by the gallery.

  2. November 11, 2012 10:08 am

    Many questions raised by this post – and that is the crux of the matter – questioning. It’s great to engage the kids in this kind of work and get them to question it (and everything else). What constitutes art seems to be a key problem people have with some contemporary work. The first line in The Story of Art by Gombrich is ‘there is no such thing as art, only artists’ – ok, that’s paraphrased but it’s an important idea. Art is what an artist says it is – or is it? Does the viewer/audience define what it is? Certainly in terms of commercial success that is true. I always thought that if it is made as art then that is what it is. I have drawings which I have made which no one will ever see but to me they are just as valid as the ones I have sold or are hanging on friends walls.

    • Ian Street permalink*
      November 11, 2012 5:04 pm

      thanks for commenting and I totally agree. For me Long is art, I really like it and I’m happy for the artist to define what art is, I’ll then decide whether I like it or not. The great thing about having some of the sculpture gallery’s near me is that it really enables you to question that and it’s great to engage children in that debate so that they can see what others consider art and consider that for themselves. All of our boundaries and perceptions are challenged which is great.

  3. November 11, 2012 10:41 pm

    Glad your mind is open enough to let Richard Long in, another great blog and the photos are beautiful. Cheers

    • Ian Street permalink*
      November 11, 2012 10:44 pm

      thanks very much. I really enjoyed the Richard Long and as I’ve mentioned fascinating to have that discussion with the kids.

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