Jeffery W. Kelly
The 2023 Wolf Prize in the Arts is awarded to Fujiko Nakaya and Richard Long “for redefining the possibilities of art-making and transforming the parameters of visual art”.
Sir Richard Julian Long is an English sculptor and one of the best-known British land artists. He lives and works in Bristol, the city in which he was born. Long studied at the West of England College of Art (1962-1965) and continued his studies at the St. Martin’s School of Art and Design, London (1966-1968). Considered one of the most influential artists, Richard Long’s works have extended the possibilities of sculpture beyond traditional materials and methods. Long’s works engage with the landscape, investigating nature and his experience within nature. His work is typically displayed with materials or through documentary photographs of his performances and experiences.
When Richard Long was 18, he walked on the downs near his native Bristol. He began rolling a snowball through the snow, and when it became too big to push further, he took out his camera – then, instead of snapshotting the giant snowball, he photographed the dark meandering track it had left in the snow. This image, one of his earliest works of land art, was named “Snowball Track”. He was then a student at the West of England College of Art in Bristol, but he was dismissed from the course because his work was considered too provocative and perhaps ahead of its time.
Walking is central to Long’s work as a way of perceiving and recording landscape; early in his career, he established the precedent that art could be a journey and that a sculpture could be deconstructed over the distance of a journey. Walking as a medium has enabled him to articulate ideas about time and space. He seeks freedom of movement and expression and a balance with the natural world through a physical and personal engagement with the land, working with nature to reflect its impermanence and the changing processes of time. His beguilingly simple works commonly take the form of geometric shapes-circles, lines, ellipses, and spirals and use raw materials,
such as stones and driftwood, found along the way. These works are often simple interventions, marks of passage, and leave little or no trace, and are documented through photographs or text works that record his ideas, observations, and experiences.
Richard Long is awarded the Wolf Prize for being a pioneer of conceptual art centered on personal interaction with the natural world. In 1967, his work A Line Made by Walking introduced a contemporary reimagining of human experience in nature as a subject for art. Over the course of nearly six decades, his solitary walks throughout the world have generated a complex body of work comprising sculptures, photographs, drawings, and texts. The materials for these artworks, echoing the walks themselves, are nature-based: rocks and stones, logs and twigs, mud and soil. The tools of time-marking and map-making, place-naming and record-keeping all figure together to create works that commingle factual observation and artistic invention. Long’s deep engagement with the natural environment as process, subject, material, and vocabulary has established him as a key figure of his generation and one whose work resonates powerfully with present-day concerns.