In the mid-1960s, Bristol-born artist Richard Long began taking long, solitary, “ritualized,” walks, in straight lines or circles, creating installations from objects found on site or taking photographs of constructions he made on the way. This path became an essential part of his artistic expression. While the artist tends not to divulge the location of his actions, they can often be traced on his maps or photographs. In the late 1970s, Long started to arrange collected natural objects from his walks in basic forms imbued with universal meaning, outdoors or in interior settings such as museums and galleries. Associated with the Land Art movement, Long believes artists should only leave humble footprints in the landscape, rather than transforming it through the insertion of grand monuments. As he put it, “I’m walking around the world and moving a few of its materials, leaving traces, but in a discreet, intelligent way.”
Turf – the upper stratum of soil, an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter – is a rich, dark, and dense substance. Often found in forested and moorland areas, it burns pungently in hearths, warming the home. Peatland ecosystems cover much of the planet, releasing carbon dioxide to maintain nature’s equilibrium. Made for an enclosed space, Turf Ring’s neatly shaped turf bricks form a circle imported from far-off places. As a child, Long used to visit his grandparents in Devon, and throughout his life frequented the nearby Dartmoor Forest, which became a favorite place for uninterrupted walks, as well as the source and site for many of his natural circular installations. Turf also carries a mythological dimension in British culture: According to popular belief, little fairies called pixies are particularly concentrated in the high moorland around Devon. Pixies chase stolen horses through the fields, creating circles in the process. Stepping into such a circle leads one into the enchanted world of pixieland.