Magazine article Artforum International

Hamish Fulton: Tate Britain. (London)

Magazine article Artforum International

Hamish Fulton: Tate Britain. (London)

Article excerpt

Hamish Fulton has sometimes been regarded as the poor man's Richard Long. Both artists attended St. Martin's School of Art in the late '60s, where they became friends. They simultaneously developed a new form of landscape art in which country walks and treks were documented using combinations of photographic image and printed text. But whereas Long made deft interventions in the landscape--most famously, making circles and lines of stones, which he subsequently recreated in the gallery--Fulton merely photographed what he saw and brought back no sculptural residue.

The impressive retrospective at Tate Britain proves that Fulton's is a distinctive, often powerful voice. Fulton may intervene less in the landscape than Long, but his work is far more vehement and confrontational. Nature is not something intimate that can be effortlessly realigned like chess pieces or children's building blocks; it is immutable and remorseless. Two recurrent images are large boulders and open roads. Boulders are frequently photographed in close-up so that they fill the whole image or the foreground of a panoramic shot. Touching Boulders by Hand, Portugal, 1994, documents an arduous seven-day walk through the Serra de Estrela in Portugal. A close-up photograph of a large, rotund boulder perched precariously on a mountaintop is accompanied by a caption that reads FROZEN GROUND NO PATHS NO TALKING. Fulton's ability to touch boulders "by hand" is an assertion of mastery but also of impotence in the face of the ungraspable and immovable. Indeed, the work evokes Sisyphus, who was condemned to push a boulder uphill forever because it always rolled down again when it reached the top.

The most striking of Fulton's open-road pieces is a billboard-scale photographic wall work that depicts a bleak country road in Spain during the winter of 1990. …

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