Public View: Adventures In Contemporary Art No 11: Walking

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The Independent Culture
The light-filled gallery is full of works that commemorate walks Hamish Fulton has made over the last few years. Simple sentences, mostly. Capital letters forming words written or printed on various types of wall- mounted paper, on a double strip of plastic on the floor, and on the walls themselves: SEVEN DAYS WALKING AND SEVEN NIGHTS CAMPING ... SUMMER SOLSTICE ... A NINE DAY CIRCULAR WALK ... FULL MOON ... NO TALKING FOR NINE DAYS ... SMALL BIRDS SINGING.

This year alone - the works are always dated - walks have taken place worldwide. Fourteen days walking, 14 days camping in the mountains of Argentina. Fourteen one-day walks from and to Kathmandu, embracing seven circuits of Boudha Stupa on the seventh and 14th day. Seven one-day walks from and to Kyoto travelling by way of Mount Heie on a circuit of ancient paths. Walking from Lake Como to the top of a nearby hill and back down to lake level once a day for 14 consecutive afternoons. These last walks were made as part of a group of walkers, with the wall-mounted text emphasising CHANGING PERSPECTIVES by use of red lettering. Whose changing perspectives, though? And how changed?

Several of this year's works arose from walks in Kent where the artist is based. By the light of the full moon in February he took 49 barefoot paces on grass at night. Under April's full moon it was down to 14 steps. But by the full moon in August and September he took 160 and 1,000 paces respectively. More paces are noted, but not all were made barefoot on grass: some were taken in bright sunlight along a dry streambed, and a few were taken walking east towards the first call of a cuckoo.

I focus on a text that covers an entire wall. Grey backdrop with white or black letters. The main words are DOOR (white letters) and ROAD (black letters). To the left is a paragraph of white words that reads SEVEN ONE DAY WALKS ON COUNTRY ROADS/ 38 MILES EACH DAY BY THE SAME ROUTE/ KENT ENGLAND 8-14 FEBRUARY 1996/ ON COMPLETION OF THE SEVENTH WALK/ ONE IMAGINARY CIRCUIT WAS MADE FROM MEMORY. To the right is an identical paragraph, but black, and dated 25-31 January 1997. Then, above DOOR ROAD, is a third version, written in black, in which the walk has become a 40-miler made each of the first seven days in December 1997, with no mention of an imaginary circuit made from memory. Why not? Because of the extra mileage? Finally, in white words below DOOR ROAD, the walk lengthens to 44 miles, made daily between 15 and 21 June this year, again with no mention of an imaginary circuit. Why not? ... For the first time he's walking the route in summer. He starts in the light and ends in the light and can well afford - indeed can't resist - an hour-long daily detour to take in extra light. So he arrives back at his front door at the end of the week, knackered, and dives straight into a hot bath or a meal or bed. In any case - no imaginary circuit.

The imaginary circuit. It seems a shame to sacrifice it ... Out of the door dark and early ... Fairly stomping along the road out of Canterbury ... Looking all around and taking in the nuances of the lightening day ... Small birds singing ... Cruising while the mind wanders back through the days, the months, the years ... Neither hide nor hair of a cuckoo ... Stopping for lunch with a view of the Downs ... Consulting Riddley Walker to ascertain exact position ... "On the Bundel Downs near the Rivver Sour about 4 faggers Norf and Eas of Bernt Arse Dead Town and about 15 faggers Souf and Wes of Cambry." ... Cruising again: one foot lifts; as the other alights ... Happy Birthday, brother John: 40 tomorrow ... Still walking fast but thoughts slowing down ... Actually, John'll only be 39 ... Quietly and blankly through a glorious winter's afternoon ... 38, 40, 44 ... Changing perspectives? ... Blackbird singing its heart out ... One last urge as dusk falls ... Fried fish fresh from Do It Over ... Through the back door and full-bellied to bed ... Sudden realisation (groan; shiver) that it's a full moon tonight with ground frost certain ... Alarm clock set for 2am.

`Walking Artist': Annely Juda Fine Art, W1 (0171 629 7578), to 18 December.

`Personal Delivery', Duncan McLaren's book on contemporary art, is out now from Quartet (pounds 12).

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