Walking in New Zealand (drawing)

I returned to go walking in the South Island recently. This time I made no effort to provide an aesthetic alibi for my actions. I was going to do the Kepler and Routeburn tracks. I bought myself a waterproof pack, a new sleeping bag, various eating utensils and all the standard stuff people carry to make these oft-repeated ‘tramps’. In the interests of keeping my load light, I deliberately didn’t take a decent camera. All I took was my mobile phone and a sketchbook. The phone died after a couple of images (for some inexplicable reason), so I was left with just the sketchbook. Without allowing the process of drawing to interfere with my walking, I tried to do a few sketches each day – chiefly in the late afternoon once I’d finished walking and there was little else to do but laze around the hut. I had not drawn properly for many years but was not overly concerned about my ineptitude. If anything, it emerged as a positive value. The images are of standard views – clouds in a valley, mountains above a lake, an alpine pass, a mossy bit of forest. Art here deliberately (but also, in my case, unavoidably) adopts the guise of an amateur. The point is not the quality of the drawings as such, but the mode of attention and engagement that they entail. They indicate a concern with the problem of time, scene, motion, reflection and memory that is integral to my experience of walking. So, more or less despite myself, and less in the sketching as such than in its relation to the conceit of the overall walking holiday, strands of aesthetic implication become evident. My initial failure to fall into line with the interests of art becomes, paradoxically, a point of artistic purchase.

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