Over two metres wide, Arkle Sutherland 1976 is a black and white landscape-oriented photograph depicting the mountain Arkle, which is situated in Sutherland in the Scottish highlands. A low mist hangs over the mountain’s horizontal expanse with the peak in the centre of the image slightly obscured by cloud. The rugged textures of the landscape are particularly visible on the left side of the image as the mountain range curves into the foreground, while on the right-hand side at the base of the slope a lake with various tributaries can be seen. The photograph is printed across three pieces of resin coated paper and is affixed to a white hardboard support. Printed on the support in capital letters underneath the image is the title of the work along with the text: ‘A THREE DAY WALK COAST TO COAST ACROSS THE NORTH OF SCOTLAND SUMMER 1976’.
This work developed from a walk undertaken in 1976 by the British artist Hamish Fulton, who has been based in Kent since 1970. Fulton has frequently described himself as a ‘walking artist’, and in a 2002 interview with the curator Ben Tufnell he explained the relationship that his photographs and texts have with the locations he visits:
My art is about specific places and particular events that are not present in the gallery. The given information is minimal. My hope is that the viewer will create a feeling, an impression in his or her own mind based on whatever my art can provide. The artwork also operates a bit like a noticeboard, as it were, gazing back out at the world.
(Quoted in Tate Britain 2002, p.108.)
Born in London in 1946, Fulton studied at three locations in the city: Hammersmith College of Art (1964–5), St Martin’s School of Art (1966–8) and the Royal College of Art (1968–9). He began making photographic works stemming from his walks in 1969, and after walking over a thousand miles across the UK in forty-seven days in 1973, his longest walk to date, he made the commitment ‘to only make art resulting from the experience of individual walks. If I do not walk, I cannot make a work of art’ (quoted in Lenbachhaus 1995, p.116). Fulton has subsequently completed walks of varying lengths in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia, often alone and usually in rural or isolated areas. Since the early 1980s the works that have developed from these walks have tended to emphasise texts rather than images, with large wall-based works becoming especially prevalent (see, for instance, Cloud Stones, Wyoming 1989). Fulton’s texts have ranged from those offering explanatory information on his journeys, as seen in this work, to more poetic reflections that often involve different type fonts and forms of graphic design, such as Geese Flying South 1990 (Tate P77620). His work has also included pencil drawings, lithographs and small sculptures made of wood or ribbon.
Fulton’s practice has been closely associated with that of the British artist Richard Long, whose photographs and sculptures, some of which are physically displayed in the gallery and others located in the landscape, have also emerged from walks (see, for instance, A Line Made by Walking 1967, Tate AR00142). The pair organised group walks together at St Martin’s School of Art in the late 1960s, and completed eleven walks together between 1972 and 1990. In a 1983 article the curator and critic Michael Auping noted ‘a subtle but significant difference’ in the two artists’ work: ‘While Long chooses to rearrange the landscape, Fulton prefers that the landscape impose itself on him’ (Auping 1983, p.90).
Michael Auping, ‘Hamish Fulton: Moral Landscapes’, Art in America, February 1983, pp.87–93.
Hamish Fulton: Thirty One Horizons, exhibition catalogue, Lenbachhaus, Munich 1995.
Hamish Fulton: Walking Journey, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2002.
Supported by Christie’s.