Hamish Fulton
Raven, Japan 1999

Artwork details

Artist
Hamish Fulton born 1946
Title
Raven, Japan
Date 1999
Medium 2 photographs, black and white, on paper with dry transfert print mounted onto paper
Dimensions Image: 1400 x 1120 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased 2003
Reference
T07999
Not on display

Summary

Hamish Fulton first came to prominence in the late 1960s as one of a group of young British artists which includes Richard Long, born 1945 (see Tate P03132) who created a new kind of landscape art. A central characteristic of this was the artists’ direct physical engagement with the landscape. In Fulton’s case he began to make carefully structured walks, and although he has been variously classified as a sculptor, photographer, conceptual artist, or land artist, he prefers to characterise himself as a ‘walking artist’. Since 1973 he has committed himself to the principle ‘no walk, no work’ and all his subsequent works have focused on the experience of walking in a specific place at a specific time. Raven, Japan 1999 comes from a body of works which focus on the physical routes – paths and roads – by which the land is traversed. These have been recurring motifs in Fulton’s work since the early 1970s. Fulton asks us to consider the overlooked: the ground on which we walk. While his work is often understood as extending a quintessentially British landscape tradition, Fulton is actually more interested in non-western art forms and philosophies. Japan has maintained a particular fascination for him and he has made many walks on the ancient paths that criss-cross that country’s mountain regions, including the sequence of one-day walks evoked by this work.

The photograph offers a black and white view of an ancient stone path climbing through a tangled, mysterious-looking forest. There are branches that appear to be growing directly out of a rock, while the undergrowth that covers all the ground surrounding the path is dense and impenetrable. The title, printed in large white letters across the width of the bottom of the photograph, heightens the air of mystery created by the visual image. It gives rise to a sense of expectancy in the viewer who is drawn visually into the forest, searching for the raven. However, the eponymous bird cannot be found within the boundaries of the photograph.

Photography has been a constant in Fulton’s work since the late 1960s, although since the 1980s he has broadened his practice to include large scale wall works, pencil drawings and small wall-mounted sculptures of wood or even ribbon. Characteristically Fulton’s photographic works consist of a black and white image with a short text, which gives the location and duration of the walk, and which might offer some descriptive elements; often (as in this case) highlighting an experience which is not pictured in the image. Vital to the appreciation of these works is an understanding that for Fulton the photograph itself is not the work of art, and nor is the text. The walk itself is the work, and the combination of image and text can function for the viewer as a memento of Fulton’s experience in the landscape.

Further reading
Hamish Fulton: Walking Journey, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain 2002, reproduced p.56
John E. Grande, Art Nature Dialogues: Interviews with Environmental Artists, Albany, 2004, pp. 129-39
Hamish Fulton: Walking Artist, exhibition catalogue, Annely Juda Fine Art, 1998

Anna Bright
March 2005

About this artwork