Alison Lloyds’ practice involves walking alone, for considerable distances, keeping off the paths, striding and ‘contouring’ through moorland and mountainous areas. She composes photographs of herself with the paraphernalia of hill walking; map, compass, rucksack and vacuum flask. These tools of walking are often captured around the margins of her photographs. Lloyd emphasises this solitary pursuit by using a cable release or timer to take the photographs of herself walking, or as she likes to name it, contouring. The walking usually centres around stopping off points that she has navigated to with compass and map. This might be amongst moorland grasses, crouching within a peat hag or following the stream in one of the narrow cloughs in the Dark Peak, Derbyshire.
Alison Lloyd is an artist based in Nottingham whose extensive career also includes curating and commissioning exhibitions, catalogues and projects with individuals such as Stephen Willats, Marina Abramović and Sarah Staton’s Supastore presented early works by Jeremy Deller, Mathew Higgs and Jessica Voorsanger within a freelance and institutional context.
Through a passage of movement incorporating walking and dancing Alison Lloyd has documented elements of her life since 1976. Recent activity includes; a residency at Outlandia, Glen Nevis in 2013, a solo exhibition at TG Gallery, Nottingham, 2014, a walking art commission for Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery and The Grand Tour, 2015, production of Act 1 – 1 Act at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art’s Project Space, 2016 which was installed at Winch Gallery, Southend, 2017 and an Instagram Takeover of Edgework in May 2018. Alison completed her PhD at Loughborough University, School of the Arts, English and Drama. Her area of research is Walking, Women and Art.
FIELDWORK Q&A – May 2020
How is fieldwork part of your practice?
The origins of my work go back over forty years to a history of working conceptually in the 1970s. Through a passage of movements incorporating walking and dancing I have documented elements of my life. My practice often involves walking alone, for considerable distances, keeping off paths, striding or ‘contouring’ through upland moorland landscapes. The photographic documentation has been described as ‘an introspective sequence of photographic self-documentation’¹ (Alex Bennett, 2019). My approach to engaging with place is a solitary and intimate witnessing of my own experience using camera, cable release or timer. It is a process that I have shared when leading ‘art walks’ for galleries, museums and artists.
Since October 2014 my research has been channelled through a practice-led PhD, which I completed in 2019. The thesis title is Contouring: Women, Walking and Art and combines a discussion of women artists of the 1960s and 70s and my own walking art. The artistic work both offers an approach to making walking art, in which the processes of walking are present in the work itself, and a method of critical analysis that makes evident the role of walking in other artists’ work. On reflection ‘Field work’ emerged as an important element as I retraced the footsteps of the women artists on Dartmoor. I walked my way into and towards the areas where they walked, so that I could familiarise myself with the general moorland terrain. I used the skills and experiences of hill walking to support an analysis of the artists and argue that walking was an important element of their art practices. These were women artists who had not been defined as walking artists in the 1960s and 70s.
How would you describe your fieldwork activity?
The walking art methods in my own work are derived from map reading, safety in the hills and mountains, and navigation and route-finding using compass and map, all of which initially allowed me to walk in extreme, challenging environments.
I have appropriated ‘contouring’ as a personal synonym for walking, combined with a philosophical approach to walking that prioritises the experience of being in the landscape over climbing up the slopes as quickly as possible to reach the summits or walking the longest distances. Contouring can be a common-sense way of moving through the landscape, particularly when climbing slopes for a sense of achievement is not essential or the main criteria for a day of walking; however, this is not always necessary or sensible when walking on rough terrain or in harsh conditions. If the priority is to document one’s walking then maintaining a contour line around the hills being walked can provide the means to do this. I combine my experiences of walking with my understanding of contemporary art. Walking in challenging environments is where I began my journey to becoming a walking artist, discovering how my ‘contouring’ could bring walking and art together as practice and research. The use of ‘contouring’ as a metaphor and a synonym for walking alludes to this development, as I shaped a path for myself along the contours between working conceptually in the 1970s, a return to practice via hill walking and historical research on women artists and walking art.
How are you currently sharing your fieldwork?
Most recently, I shared my fieldwork methods with the participants in Allenheads during Laura Harrington’s Beyond Fieldwork event that took place in the city at Baltic 39 in Newcastle and in the field at 540m around Allenheads Contemporary Arts. The event was an opportunity to share my methods and processes, which on reflection are a form of solitary intimate fieldwork, which can be shared with others. It is also a way of working that I would like to pursue in collaboration with or association with other disciplines. I introduced the group to a slow micro-navigation of no more than 1000 metres across the uneven blanket bog. I also introduced the group to the way that I place my camera on the back surface of my rucksack, attach the cable release and then photograph my actions. Walking between the camera and the extent of the cable taking and checking the shots is part of the process. Editing is also part of the process, which takes place when I get back home and review the images on my laptop.
¹ Alex Bennett writing in Flash Art on ‘Southend, 1982’ exhibited at Salon de Normandy, Paris, 2019.