Naima Morelli

Richard Long, Text Work from 1990 to 2012


Leave a trace. Recall a feeling. Mark our own path. These are the key needs of a human being.
Among the centuries men modified things all around them, sometimes without utility, just to fight the sense of loss. Basically, this is the reason why the Art started.
This urgency of conservation could show itself as a quick sketch of a bison in Lascaux Caves, or a line “Anna was here” in your school bathroom.
Many contemporary artists work on that concept as well. We can say without any doubt that Richard Long is one of them.

In a private visit to Locarn O’Neill gallery’s last exhibition with a friend of mine, we were struck by the work in the Locarn’s showcase, in the window display between Via Orti d’Alibert and Via della Lungara.
This display is a secondary space where the Locarn Gallery gives a preview of the main attraction in the primary space. The showcase was of a circle of stones pieces, perfectly in line with Long’s way of working. Land Art and other stories like that.

The installation’s name was “Trastevere Spring Circle”, a name that thrilled my friend Mira, who has an obsession with aliens and crop field circles. “This Richard Long… I never heard of him, but maybe he could be one of the Messengers”
“Who are these Messengers?” I asked her
She stared at me, stunned by my ignorance.
“Them. You know, the Messengers!”
“No, I’m sorry, but I’m not sure Richard Long could be one of them, whoever the Messengers are”
“But look at the wall text!” she pointed at the work Mendoza Walking hanging on the wall “It’s evident! The pyramid shape to the cluster of words clearly remind me of something else”
“Art in general is meant to remind you of something else. Except art for art’s sake, of course, but who cares, in the end?”
“Don’t be silly darling, I mean…” she looks around with warning “… Aliens, you know?”
“I’m more inclined to think Long works on parallelisms. Every letter in his wall text could be put on an other like the stones composing his installation. Every material has words hidden in them.”
“God’s knows I already said I noticed something is hidden there”
“Yes, but I mean, something deals with nature… freedom… world spirit. Animism and transcendent at least, but Aliens… I think is too far from the conception of the artist.”
“Aren’t you for free interpretation of contemporary art?”
“Not exactly me, just Umberto Eco, a friend of mine that wrote the essay L’Opera Aperta, Open Work.”
“But you follow his thought line. Me as well.”
“Well, I haven’t seen you in stare at a window display for so long since we passed by Missoni’s. Let’s go to see what Locarn has in the main space”

In the main space Mira and me didn’t find what we were expecting. Not a single stones installation for me, not a flying saucer for Mira, just textworks printed large and hanging on the wall – amazing!
It was like peering into Richard Long’s notebooks and finding out that the artist’s simple annotations on his nature hikes could sound like poetry.
I mean, very bare poetry:


England 2001”
Notes, coordinates, numbers shuffled with small thoughts on nature’s beauty. Logging the place and the date to each entry. To not forget. How to continue.

It’s very interesting that he decided not to show an installation, not the photos and the documentation of the work after. But he bared the before. The solitary paths that leads him to the place where he’ll make the installation.
Every time there was just Nature and him; he wants to write down their dialogues to remark man’s place in the Land.
Just to remain on Romanity, the artist’s task is in a way similar to a classical latin naturalist writer Plinio il Vecchio. Plinio had a deep affinity with nature, he often went on long hikes in the forests and country side. From his notes he developed his masterpiece Naturalis Historia.

The Locarn O’Neill Gallery presented these Text Works from 1990 to 2012. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the first time that Richard exhibited this kind of work. You can find similar pieces in his eary career, in 1969 for “When Attitudes Become Form” at the Kunsthalle in Bern, and in 1967 for “A Line Made by Walking”.

“So that is that. Not even an alien” said my friend Mira disappointingly.
Yeah, not even an alien, but why search so far in the universe, if the key is just outside our cities?

“How can we not see
That the Nature asks us with imperious cries,
Nothing else that body’s freedom form pain, and that soul enjoys
A clean sense of joy without fear and trouble?”

(Tito Lucrezio Caro, De Rerum Natura, vv. 16-19)


Exhibition visited on the 24/3/2012

Galleria Lorcan O’Neill
via Orti d’Alibert, 1e






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