Now showing at the Turner Contemporary is the extraordinary Turner and the Elements – a broad spectrum from the painting thaumaturge’s career – and, in a room next door, the bold type of Hamish Fulton’s exhibit Walk. The latter defies generalisation, the terms “land artist” and “performance artist” being eschewed for a simpler, more open “walking artist.” The product of his trips are documents; photographic and texts and sketches. But the most striking are the vinyl wall-works of walks surmised into a literal yet lyrical statement, treated typographically and displayed on a huge scale.
“If I do not walk, I cannot make a work of art” Hamish says. The show is a selection from the last 40 years of the artist’s compulsive journeying that has seen him scale mountains, follow country by-lanes and everything in between in over 25 countries.
We are reminded that one might erase a line drawn on a map, but you cannot delete a walk – the environmental impact of all our actions being crucial to his art. Equally, you can buy an artwork but you cannot sell a walk.
As much as we take for granted or bypass our necessity to move about in the way we do, Hamish’s work is a mediative return to the sublime state of walking. “In mountaineering terms,” the artist reminds us, “reaching the summit is only half the journey.”
Although harmonious in their mutual appreciation of nature, Turner and the Elements could not be more of a different exhibition experience to Walk – but this is when galleries work best, I think.
Elements has been extraordinarily considered. Familiar as Turner’s work is to a relatively wide audience, there are plenty of studies and sketches and rarely-seen paintings on show. Also, the curator’s classical divisions between the elemental states – earth, water, fire, air – that frequently occur in the artist’s work is a sharp device not only to show off collections of familiar with non-familiar work, but also to contextualise each series within its historic and scientific situation.
Turner was painting at a crucial period as meteorology was born, the first 30 elements from the periodic table were completed and the poetic simplicity of the four natural properties attributed to all matter was undermined. His work was seen as very much a part of these novel debates about nature and, as he was close to a number of the leading scientists of the day, are closely linked to the age-defining discoveries.
The final theme in the show is the most fascinating as Turner’s own ability to depict not only the effect, but also causes of the elements – their processes of transformation and the their indistinguishability when in the tempestuous maelstrom of fusion.
Exciting stuff at the Turner Contemporary!
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- Jee-ook Choi conveys complex ideas using fine linework and muted colours
- Photographer Mehdi Lacoste on working with Actress
- French designer Victoire Coyon’s understated portfolio
- Unit Editions’ upcoming book on the unparalleled work of Paula Scher
- A creative composite of illustration: ten years of Christoph Ruckhäberle’s Lubok
- A new national identity: Smörgåsbord Studio rebrands Wales
- Graphic design gems: Chicago gang business cards from the 1970s and 80s
- Photographer Dougie Wallace captures the super rich spenders of “Harrodsburg”
- “Romance in a sort-of fantasy world”: photographer Molly Matalon's new work (some NSFW)
- Studio Michael Satter’s sophisticatedly simple graphic design portfolio
- Harry Pearce and Pentagram create a new identity for Pink Floyd’s record label