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Hamish Fulton exhibition comes to the Tate Modern

Hamish Fulton is a difficult man to pigeon-hole as an artist. He doesn’t paint or sculpt; he has never created a huge installation for the Tate Modern; he takes a few photographs, but that isn’t what he’s famous for.

In fact, Hamish is probably unique in the medium that he works in; the only artist in the world whose long-distance walks are works of art in themselves.

Hamish first started seeing walking as art in the 1960s while studying in London. The city was at the heart of several new movements and new approaches to old subjects and its was in this atmosphere that Fulton first realised that painting a landscape was a poor alternative to experiencing the scenery for yourself. He started walking 50 years ago and has not looked back since.

The respected artist, who graduated from Hammersmith College of Art, St Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art, is now 65-years-old but that hasn’t stopped him tackling challenging routes such as Land’s End to John O’Groats and even a hike to the base camp at Everest in recent years, documenting each of his walks with a series of photographs; though he is quick to point out that these visual records are merely a representation of what he experienced on the walk and are not works of art in themselves.

Fulton, who describes his art as “making walks” believes it is more important to be in and to experience a location than it is to make an accurate record of that location’s appearance, adding that you understand far more about a place by being there than by seeing a picture of it.

Consequently, Hamish has involved himself in walks all over the world which aren’t just in beautiful or interesting locations, but which have a deeper meaning to them as well; walks such as the May 2011 Slow Walk in support of the jailed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and the walk for Tibetan freedom.

Hamish, who first started walking as an art form while studying at St Martin’s, says it was the open and permissive attitude at that particular institution which encouraged him to put down the pencil and take up the walking pole. He added that his tutors were great believers in art without any boundaries and he simply took their ideas a few steps further – literally and figuratively.

He insists his walks are very different from your usual stroll in the countryside, explaining that while ramblers can enjoy the activity and the scenery, they are not so interested in the experience and significance of walking itself. He quotes the example of a recent event in France where participants walked 10 kilometres blindfolded and then another 10 kilometres backwards, not to get anywhere but simply to feel how different those experiences were.

However, Hamish is very supportive of ramblers’ groups in the UK and counts serious walkers among his many fans. He was even invited to give the opening address at an annual ramblers gathering in London in 2007 and many are planning to take part in Fulton’s next mass walk in April, 2012.

The walking at his new show at Turner Contemporary will be kept to a minimum as visitors are invited to choose their own route through the exhibits; a collection of photographs taking on Hamish’s many walks around the world as well as descriptions of some of his favourite or most unusual moments.

 

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