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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. Winter Solstice Full Moon, The Pilgrim’s Way is a large vinyl text wall work that refers to a walk he made from Winchester to Canterbury in 1991. 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 cut grey and white vinyl capital lettering applied to a matt black wall. It is installed to the full width of the wall on which it is sited. The white top line of text reads ‘Winter Solstice Full Moon’. The text underneath, which is grey and smaller than the top line, describes the length, duration and direction of the route.
Fulton has been making works directly on the walls of galleries since 1988. The wall works are either painted directly onto the walls or made with cut vinyl lettering applied to painted areas on the wall. Fulton designs the works and oversees the installation, but does not physically apply the vinyl himself. The works are carefully revised by the artist for each specific location and for the proportions of the wall on which the work is to be made. Vital to the appreciation of these works is an understanding that for Fulton the text that comprises the image is not the work of art. The walk itself is the work, and the resulting text functions for the viewer as a memento of the artist’s experience in the landscape.
In 1971 Fulton walked along the ancient path between Canterbury and Winchester. The subsequent photograph The Pilgrim’s Way, 1971 (Tate T07995) became a single marker for the entire ten-day journey. This is regarded by the artist as one of his most important early works as it was one of the first occasions on which he consciously made a defined walk as a work of art. In 1991 he repeated the walk along the Pilgrim’s Way, which resulted in the large scale wall-work Winter Solstice Full Moon, The Pilgrim’s Way, 1991. On this second occasion Fulton altered his experience of the journey by walking continuously, without sleep. ‘After the second night of walking without sleep my chemistry was affected and I started to hallucinate – I “changed” the landscape without handling it.’ (‘Specific Places and Particular Events: Hamish Fulton interviewed by Ben Tufnell’ in Hamish Fulton: Walking Journey, p.111) Fulton’s assertion that he has not handled the landscape is an important one. In contrast to other land artists, Fulton does not remove or rearrange any objects found during his walks and this desire to leave the land unmarked by his presence differentiates his work from theirs. In keeping with contemporary thinking on low-impact mountaineering and trekking, Fulton aims to ‘leave no trace’.
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.132
Hamish Fulton: Walking Artist, exhibition catalogue, Annely Juda Fine Art, 1998