It must be a lonely old life for Richard Long – all those solitary treks, the transitory marks of his trajectory through the landscape recorded in melancholy photographs and textworks. Melancholic, but elegiac; Long’s observations and arrangements are uplifting as well as meditative, involving deft visual, word and number play, conveying a mind that delights in exploring, documenting and assessing the natural world. Intriguing as the texts and photographs of Long’s land-sculpture are, they could become lost in a gallery by themselves – it is the strength and weakness of Long’s work that it is mediated through secondary sources – luckily, this survey includes gallery specific works. Stones arranged in circles pool across the floor, creating micro-terrains that encourage the eye to investigate. Particularly striking are the works created by splattering mud directly onto the walls, which express the bracing experience of striking out across country into the embrace of the elements. Although whoever has to clean up afterwards might not view them so poetically…
As I moved through the Cy Twombly retrospective at Tate Modern, my eye was caught by a series of 24 drawings called Poems to the Sea. Executed on small squares of white paper whilst Twombly was staying in Sperlonga, a tiny fishing village perched on the coast between Rome and Naples, these works are at once drawings, poems, and, it seemed to me, musical scores. Numbers march at intervals across the surface of the drawings – you can almost imagine the artist beating in time as he put them down – ‘one, two, three, four – five.’ Horizon lines merge into stave lines. Splodges of plaster and accented pencil marks – whilst conjuring up waves and spray – become a score for their own performance.
A piece written on a talk given by Cornelia Parker as part of Tate Modern’s Talking Art series in May 2008, originally published on the Tate Forum blog.
Cornelia Parker is obsessed with things: old things no-one wants any more, things salvaged from the dump, things unearthed in pawnshops, fleamarkets and dingy antique shops, things tarnished with a thick patina of accumulated history – things that have the ability to ‘make the hair on the back of your neck stand up’ with their sense of presence and past. Throughout her talk, the joyous and groundbreaking exhortation of the American Modernist poet William Carlos Williams – ‘say it: no ideas but in things’ – hummed through my mind. Parker may be working on the other side of the pond, decades later, and in a different medium, but like Williams she is attuned to and tremendously excited by the power that can be exerted by an old cup, a ring, some scrumpled up newspaper.