Inside this issue
End frame: A line made by walking England 1967 by Richard Long
Richard Draper chooses one of his favourite images
Richard Draper is an artist whose work brings together landscape, abstract and conceptual photography. His recent projects have explored visible and invisible paths in the landscape, and human interaction with them. His most recent solo show was at the White Horse Gallery in Marlborough and he exhibits regularly as part of Marlborough Open Studios. His work has also been shown in group exhibitions at the RWA in Bristol, the Martin Parr Foundation, the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, the Richard Jefferies Museum and the Royal Photographic Society. In 2019 he completed an MA in Photography at UWE, Bristol.
During my recent MA in Photography at UWE in Bristol, we were asked to identify an image which had inspired us. I chose this early work by Richard Long in which he walked up and down a field to make a line. He then photographed it. The work epitomises much of Long’s work, which he describes on his website as “Art made by walking in landscapes”. He says his work is “Simple creative acts of walking and marking / about place, locality, time, distance and measurement”.
This work, which he describes as a sculpture, is both simple and complex. On a material level, it is a photograph, a photograph of what’s left behind - the line or path - after a simple universal human act - walking. The person who did this has gone. But the trace remains. And as this trace was made over 50 years ago we can assume it too has now gone so the only trace left is the photograph - the only manifestation, memory, of that original line. Long says he can barely remember which field he used!
This part sculpture, part performance, part photographic work addresses the idea of humankind leaving traces on the land. We infer that this line was made by Long walking up and down - an essentially pointless act, as it appears to lead nowhere, except into a hedge. But extrapolating from this it does say something about human endeavour and our relation to the land, our literal footprint – determined, planned, impactful but ephemeral - ultimately all that remains is a blurry photographic record on a fleeting website. Long’s work has developed into undertaking much longer walks and making marks with natural materials in the landscape and in the gallery.
These ideas became important for my own project which I created during the MA. It was based on the Ridgeway path, considered by some to be Europe’s oldest road. Walking along an ancient path, one which has been around for more than our recorded history links us to many previous generations.