Fulton’s work is about the experience of walking through natural landscape. Since the early 1970s it has taken the form of framed photographs and integrated descriptive text. More recently Fulton has used printed text alone, occasionally accompanied by diagrams, exploring the graphic possibilities of varying typesets and colours. Whatever the form, the visible work aims to express and record his specific responses to the places he travels through. When he sets out he has no preconceived idea about the images he will produce but allows chance encounters and discoveries to direct his selection of views.
France on the Horizon is the result of a circular fifty mile one day walk made in the area of Dover, Kent, south east England. Fulton set out from his house at Saltwood near Hythe in the early hours of the morning, reached Dover between five and six a.m. and returned home late at night. The photograph was taken from a spot above the famous White Cliffs to the east of the Dover docks. From Fulton’s vantage point the cliffs were not visible. A swathe of rolling grassland in the foreground frames the waters of the Channel extending out towards the European Continent on the horizon. In broad daylight France is sometimes clearly visible as a white strip across the Strait of Dover. In this photograph, because of the early morning light conditions, it appears as a dark island on the horizon. Fulton chose this image as representative of his feelings about the particular walk and believes that after taking this photograph he put his camera away for the rest of the day (Approaches to Landscape, [p.4]). Looking out over the sea he was reminded that England was once joined to the landmass of Europe and that this is the narrowest stretch of water between England and France. As a strategic position during wartime, it would have particular memories for those alive in the first half of the twentieth century (during the two World Wars). Fulton thought about the significance of the White Cliffs for Britons travelling abroad, immortalised in the famous wartime song by Vera Lynn (born 1917) The White Cliffs of Dover. He was also reminded that, at that time, he was looking at one of the busiest commercial shipping lanes in the world, although only a solitary small tanker is visible in the top left corner of the photograph.
France on the Horizon was produced in an edition of three. It is captioned: ‘FRANCE ON THE HORIZON – 21 MILES ACROSS THE CHANNEL / A ONE DAY 50 MILE WALK BY WAY OF THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER / ENGLAND SUMMER 1975’.
Approaches to Landscape, exhibition brochure, Tate Gallery, London 1981, [p.4], reproduced [p.4]
Ben Tufnell, Andrew Wilson, Hamish Fulton: Walking Journey, exhibition catalogue, Tate, London 2002
The Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1980-82, Tate Gallery, London 1984, pp.94-5, reproduced p.94
Catherine Kinley/Elizabeth Manchester
November 1981/February 2003