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.

Solstice Journey, France is a work that combines photography and text. It evokes a road-walking journey that the artist made from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel in June 1992, during which he passed through towns, villages and empty countryside. The title of the work points to Fulton’s preoccupation with numbers, calendars and means of measuring time and distance. The timings of his walks are often carefully worked out to coincide with auspicious signs, such as solstice or full moon. The work consists of a black and white photograph of a traditional, stone, French milestone set on the side of a rural road against a backdrop of fields and trees. The words ‘Solstice Journey’ are in black under the image in large capitals. Beneath this headline is a description of the walk and underneath that are the dates on which the walk took place.

Fulton has made many works which feature milestones, cairns and boulders. These objects have a distinct sculptural presence and also function as markers. Throughout his career Fulton has shown a particular fascination with milestones, which he has likened to text works in their own right. Milestones by the side of the road and cairns or boulders in a landscape offer a means to locate oneself in often remote environments.

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 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 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
John E. Grande, Art Nature Dialogues: Interviews with Environmental Artists, Albany, 2004, pp. 129-39, reproduced p.133
Hamish Fulton: Walking Artist, exhibition catalogue, Annely Juda Fine Art, 1998

Anna Bright
March 2005