Thursday, May 10, 2012

Margate Walk

We made it to Margate on Monday for the last day of the Hamish Fulton exhibition.  As you can see from the picture above, it was paired with 'Turner and the Elements'.  I won't say anything about the Turners aside from concurring with the views of Iain Sinclair on Front Row: "magnificent paintings worth crawling on your hands and feet to Margate to see" (although you only have three more days to see it, so you may need to start crawling now). Turner's late period will be examined in another show this year at Tate Liverpool, alongside late works by Twombly and Monet.  Whether Hamish Fulton's recent art could be described as a late period may depend on how his practice develops - I should think he is so fit from the walking that he'll be literally scaling new heights for many years to come.  But there's certainly a sense in some of the pieces that he is looking back over a lifetime's work, as in 'WALKING COAST TO COAST COAST TO RIVER RIVER TO COAST RIVER TO RIVER 31 WALKS 1971-2010'.  Other recent text works look back to his earliest hitchhiking and group walking experiences (which I discussed in an earlier post).

For this exhibition Fulton organised a participative walk on Margate Sands around the rectangular Marine Bathing Pool wall.  Imagining I suppose that Fulton might have mellowed into a kind of conceptual art scout leader, my wife wondered if the participants were allowed to talk to each other - but the instructions were strict: to 'walk slowly, in silence'. The point of this was to focus attention on the process of walking itself and the video of the event conveys this contemplative quality, with silhouettes constantly moving whilst the outline of the walk and the mirror-like surface of the water remain still.  It made me reflect on the shapes Fulton has himself traced over the landscapes he has visited, lines visualised for example criss-crossing the map of Europe in 'WALKING COAST TO COAST...' The Margate walk participants interviewed in the video clip below describe the experience as 'cold', 'interesting', 'Zen-like', 'mesmerising', 'therapeutic', 'disorientating', 'cold'...  One says that all he could look at was the bloke in front's shoes, and then spent the whole walk wanting to tell him that his laces had come undone.

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