The work documents an action by Richard Long – the creation of a transient line in nature made by repeatedly walking back and forth in a grassy field – which he then photographed from an angle at which the sunlight made the line particularly visible. The artist made this work while still a student at St Martin’s School of Art, London, where his contemporaries included the artists Gilbert & George, Barry Flanagan and Hamish Fulton. Long has described how, in June 1967, he took a train from London’s Waterloo station heading southeast, disembarked after about twenty miles and found the featureless field that was to become the site of A Line Made by Walking. Working outside the walls of the gallery in the expanded space of the real world, he created the first of his many works made by walking.
For a seemingly simple and prosaic action to be understood as art was a breakthrough for Long’s artistic career and also anticipated the practice of performance art that was to become widespread during the 1970s. Although no human figure appears in Long’s photograph, A Line Made By Walking presents a trace of corporeal presence and bodily action.
A Line Made By Walking, © Richard Long, 1967