This diverse exhibition unites over 20 artists and a mix of media unite under one common cause: walking. Walk On: 40 years of Art Walking at the Pitzhanger Manor Gallery & House is an opportunity to see a broad range of works motivated by this act, from both prominent and lesser-known artists. Walking can be a source of inspiration as well as an art piece in itself. The diversity of how walking can be used is truly celebrated in this exhibition, and the often mundane act of pacing from A to B is given a new prominence.
Richard Long's symmetrical arrangement of Fourteen Stones takes centre stage in the elegant gallery space of PM House & Gallery. Other prominent artists greet you upon entry: Janet Cardiff and her Walk Book, images from Marina Abramovich's journey along the Great Wall of China in The Lovers, and the unmistakable graphics of three Hamish Fulton prints. Whilst these well-known works are famous for their walking theme, the context of the exhibition provides different perspectives on works with a less-obvious connection to the concept. James Hugonin's complex colour grid paintings, for example, are known for their subtle, rhythmic patterns, but in Walk On the inspiration behind Hugonin's becomes key. Walks through the Northumberland landscape are pivotal to his practice, and the vibrancy of the natural world is clear in the display of Binary Rhythm (Dark Red/Indigo).
Janet Cardiff and Georges Bures Miller are represented simply by the display of The Walk Book on a small shelf. The full extent of Cardiff's audio work is not considered, and the inclusion of the book seems more of an obligatory nod to a required piece. Similarly, the photographs on display of Marina Abramovich's The Lovers appear as a brief acknowledgement of her well-known performance piece.
Richard Long is certainly at home here in Walk On. The central, symmetrical presentation of Fourteen Stones provides a focal point for the exhibition, like a centre of gravity for the space, both aesthetically and thematically. Raise your head from Long's stones on the floor, and you see a couple of walking sticks hanging delicately from small glass shelves. Richard Wentworth's Thus playfully hangs high on the wall, seemingly arbitrary and almost comical.
Other works by lesser-known artists stand out amongst the Longs and Fultons. One particular work of note is the beautiful installation from Tracy Hanna, Hill Walker. The spot-lit mound of plaster with video projection is enough to draw your attention away entirely from the Fourteen Stones right next to it. Hanna has created a moving and poignant piece in which the tiny silhouette of a lone walker is projected on to the side of a small mountain. You watch the solitary figure climb to the top and then repeat his journey on a loop. The pathos of Hill Walker is plain, as you sense the arduousness and futility of the endeavours of mankind.
Be sure to spend some time surveying walkwalkwalk's found objects (a gummy bear, champagne bottle, a lonely glove), contemplating Alec Finlay's miniature whiskey bottles with poetry labels (''Seasons changing raspberry darkens to bramble'') and scrutinising the small events delicately recorded by Rachael Clewlow in her notebook, documenting the everyday activities we all overlook (''18:27 At Tesco, 18:32 Leave Tesco''). Francis Alÿs' video works play in a separate space, upstairs in the manor house itself. Guards (2004) is as much a sound piece as a video work; the rhythmic stamp of the guards' march as they tread the city of London is metronomic and engrossing. By contrast, the more organic, spontaneous journey made through the National Portrait Gallery by a fox in Nightwatch, is entertaining. The films explore a world in which surveillance and CCTV pervade day to day life, both doing this in an amusing and quite comical way.
For a modestly sized space, there is plenty to see and many works require a bit of time and attention. The diverse range of media and approaches to walking make for a strong body of work and it is refreshing to see some new names next to the more established, familiar ones. It also enlightening to observe, in one space, how the act of walking has been used in such a variety of ways and translated through all kinds of media; performance, film, painting, sculpture, sound. The Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery is a charming space for this quite enchanting collection of works, and a stroll round Walk On is certainly a walk worth taking.