Students from the Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) recently pushed the boundaries of their own creativity as they watched Turner Prize-winning artist Richard Long at work preparing for his landmark exhibition at Houghton Hall.
The Fine Art and Film and Moving Image Production students were given a rare opportunity to meet and film the world-renowned conceptual artist at the West Norfolk stately home as he was bringing together final elements for his Earth Sky exhibition which opened to the public on April 30 and runs until October 26.
A permanent Richard Long sculpture, Full Moon Circle, has been at Houghton since 2003 and for this summer, visitors can also see the artist’s new large-scale works created especially for the grounds which include an 84-metre long line of carrstone called ‘A Line in Norfolk’, the ‘Houghton Cross’ of jagged shards of Cornish slate, and ‘White Deer Circle’ which has used tree stumps from the estate. There is also a slate and local flint compass sited indoors in the Stone Hall called ‘North South East West’ and other smaller scale pieces.
Four BA Film and Moving Image students who are in the second and third years of their degree courses, and one MA Moving Image and Sound student worked on the filming project, while four BA Fine Art students from Years 1, 2 & 3, were involved, observing the artist as he worked on a new piece called ‘White Water Falls’ which was created by throwing white paint onto black painted boards fitted behind colonnades in the wings of the main hall.
Richard Long often gathers inspiration for his works on long solitary walks over many days, and he rarely gives interviews, so it was a considerable coup for the students to gain his permission to make a video about his work.
“They had to write 100 words about why they wanted to come and see me work,” he said. “I thought that was very charming and I was very chuffed by that. Even though I am not a pop artist and I don’t court popularity, I think it is amazing that work finds its way in the world anyway. I think it is great that young students know about it.”
Other NUA students are also acting as volunteers for an educational programme linked to the exhibition, called BeLong. Funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, the project will see 48 groups of pupils from local schools and colleges visiting the exhibition to learn about art and get inspired and challenged as they work with a professional writer and an artist to explore the works and materials used to make them.
Pro Vice-Chancellor at NUA, Professor Neil Powell said the university was delighted to be involved with Earth Sky: “Richard is one of the most significant artists of the late 20th and early 21st century, whose works have captured the imagination and breathed contemplative magic into chosen sites around the globe. The importance of the opportunity for NUA students to work with the artist on site at Houghton, to make a film of his practice, and to engage with associated vital educational outreach work with schools and colleges cannot be overstated.
“For the first time in many years, the artist has agreed to be captured on film at length, and for the first time ever, aerial footage of his large-scale land-based works have been captured by NUA students using a drone, offering a unique and revealing perspective on the work and its site.” He said the finished film would be of “lasting documentary importance” and would help with the development of the students’ professional portfolios as creative practitioners.
Leo Baldwin-Ramult, MA Moving Image and Sound student, said it had been “a completely unexpected opportunity, and an invaluable experience”. “It gave me a fresh perspective on Richard Long’s art, and a rare insight into the conditions in which his works are made.”
Fellow Year 3 BA Film and Moving Image Production student Natalie Hazelden added: “To work on a project alongside Richard Long was a real privilege. To be so close to an artist of such magnitude is slightly surreal and to be on set in a place as grand as Houghton Hall was quite astounding.”
The Fine Art students were also overwhelmed by their experience of seeing him at work with Year 1 BA Fine Art student Jonathan Mallett commenting: “The opportunity to see someone like Richard Long working up close, and moving around the environment that he works in, was a pivotal experience to me as a student concerned with sculpture. Excitement doesn’t quite cover it!”
And Emma Hampson, Year 2 BA Fine Art, added that she had found it “incredibly inspiring”. “He is a very private person and so to have even a small amount of time with him and hearing him speak about his work was incredibly interesting. His care about the placement of each stone and the consideration which goes into every stage of his making was so wonderful to see.”
Earth Sky is open to visitors until October 26 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays from 11am onwards, with last admission at 4pm (one hour before closure). All children aged 16 years and under get in free. For more information see www.houghtonhall.com
Houghton Hall would like to thank all Sponsors & Supporters of EARTH SKY – with thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund for its support of the BeLong project.