Visitors to Houghton Hall this season will find some dramatic new features in the landscape created by celebrated Turner Prize winning artist Richard Long.
The 71-year-old is no stranger here with one of his works, Full Moon Circle, already being a permanent slate sculpture commissioned for Houghton in 2003.
The exhibition Earth Sky: Richard Long at Houghton, which opened on Sunday, includes new large scale works both inside the hall and in the grounds.
The artist is perhaps best known in his 50-year career for forming ideas and creating works such as lines, circles and spirals using natural materials during long solitary walks in landscapes across the world.
The connection he makes with the place in which he is working is evident at Houghton where he has used locally sourced materials such as Norfolk flint and carrstone.
And his White Deer Circle, an arrangement of 16 upturned giant tree stumps rising up from a parkland hollow near the hall, is created from oaks and chestnut trees all from the estate. The primitive circle of twisted roots pointing to the sky has echoes of the ancient Seahenge discovered at Holme just a few miles away, although the artist had no knowledge of this when he set about building the structure.
One of the most eye-catching pieces, particularly because of its position, slap bang in the middle of mown lawns in front of the Palladian hall, is A Line in Norfolk, an 84-metre long low-level carrstone structure. Every element of the bold, rust-coloured piece, as indeed is the case with his other sculptures, has been placed by hand by the artist.
The line of carrstone connects the hall with Long’s earlier piece, Full Moon Circle, which sits close to the ha-ha and is said to change its appearance depending on the light and weather.
Within the walled garden, after wandering through immaculately kept gardens, the hedge-enclosed croquet lawn holds another Long statement. The Houghton Cross is a striking, large sculpture made from jagged pieces of Cornish slate, one of the artist’s favourite materials. Each individual heavy piece of slate is positioned in a structured way, putting order into nature.
More slate has been used, but placed flat onto the ground in his Wilderness Dreaming, a simple, spiral he started with no plan, but which naturally evolved as he worked.
The only sculpture inside the hall is North South East West where a circle of Norfolk flints contain the compass lines created from raised slate. The sculpture is set to the true lines of the compass and therefore at a slight angle to the window of the Stone Hall which looks down over the carrstone line outside.
Perhaps one of the most surprising and unusual of all the new pieces is White Water Falls created by throwing buckets of white, chalky paint onto the dark walls behind colonnades near the main hall building. At first it’s quite shocking to see these splashes running down the walls. Close up, the patterns created are fascinating.
Gallery spaces inside the hall and in the south wing show pieces from the artist’s earlier career including a picture of his 1967 A Line Made by Walking when as a student he found a country field, walked up and down it and took a photograph, which he then exhibited. There’s also a chance to learn about some of his off-the-beaten track treks where he created his natural art in places such as Antarctica, Bolivia and South Africa.
During his career he has staged more than 100 solo exhibitions and this one at Houghton is his largest since his Tate retrospective in 2009.
Earth Sky: Richard Long at Houghton runs until October 26.