Hamish Fulton

Year and place of birth: 1946, Londen, United Kingdom Location: Canterbury, United Kingdom

Hamish Fulton cites 1959 as the year in which his fundamental attitude crystallised. This was the period in which he immersed himself in literature about the North American Indians. He subsequently studied at several London art schools, where he embarked upon painting and sculpture, before rapidly alighting upon the highly mobile nature of photography. Fulton’s fellow students included Richard Long and Gilbert & George. They all explored new forms of art, particularly sculpture. Long and Fulton opted for direct physical contact with nature and a commitment to the unspoilt landscape.

Between 1967 and 1973, Fulton developed the idea of focusing exclusively on walks. After his first long expedition in the late summer of 1973, from the north east of the United Kingdom to the far south west, he decided to “only make art that results from the experience of individual walks”. Travelling afforded him the insight that art can depict a vision of life that does not necessarily need to culminate in the production of objects. The art object dematerialised in around 1970, leading to the creation of land and earth art. In England, Fulton and Long based their first artworks on the walks they took, whilst in the US Michael Heizer and Robert Smithson executed projects in and with the landscape.

While Richard Long made small interventions in the landscape during his walks, photographically documented them, and later also brought natural elements into museums and galleries, Fulton went so far as to declare that his walks were artworks in their own right. He regards walking as an autonomous art form and the walks as invisible objects. Although these can never match the experience of being out in the open air, Fulton took photos and made notes documenting the essential aspects of the walk: including its location, date and length. These were converted into objects through which he tried to share his trek with the public: drawings, diagrams, photos, wall texts, maps, artists’ books and editions.

Since 1994, Fulton has also been organising collective walks focusing on aspects of nature to which scant attention is paid in cities. These are often ‘slowalks’ in which a short distance (often extremely brief) is covered in a limited space of time. He encourages himself and the participants to meditate. This is an implicit protest against the fast tempo of modern life and a society that is alienated from nature. In recent years, Fulton’s textual works have painted a more explicit picture of his political and ecological preoccupations. The protest embedded in “Chinese Economy Tibetan Justice” speaks for itself.

Although his work has much in common with conceptual, minimal and land art, Fulton takes a distance from these: “I am an artist who walks, not a walker who makes art.” Yet he is regarded as one of the most important conceptual artists of all time.

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