The Barefoot Lone Pilgrim

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Performance, Photography, Video and Comics

In the Barefoot Lone Pilgrim video/performance pieces, Blandy integrates real life and virtual adventures. The character was originally conceived whilst on residency at Grizedale Arts, Cumbria. Donning the orange robes of a Buddhist Shaolin Monk, portable record player in hand, the Lone Pilgrim has been a hermit in an 18th Century park in Surrey, made an American road trip, and searched for the places that had associations with soul songs in New York.

In Soul of the Lakes, the Lone Pilgrim walked between the only two record shops in the Lake District in the north of England, searching for soul. Intercutting the footage of the real journey with segments from films such as Shogun Assassin and Princess Mononoke and television programmes Kung Fu and Monkey, the film of the performance weaves together an idiosyncratic tale of self-discovery which is all the more believable for its shifts into fantasy and personal reverie.


Grizedale Artist Residency 2004

An artist's residency at Grizedale Arts led to the development of the character "The Barefoot Lone Pilgrim". 

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Hermit at Painshill Park 2004

A two week residency as a hermit at Painshill Park, Surrey, 2004 resulting in a comic diary

Supported by Danielle Arnaud contemporary art and Parabola, in association with the Museum of Garden History, as part of 'Tempered Ground' 1 July-31 August 2004 at the Museum of Garden History, London.

Parabola Trust
Culture 24 Review

Painshill Park is one of the 18th century's great landscape parks. Located near Cobham, Surrey, Painshill Park was the vision of the Hon Charles Hamilton, a young nobleman who returned from his Grand Tour of Europe inspired by all the art and architecture he had seen. Between 1738 and 1773 he enthusiastically set about transforming a strip of land near the River Mole into a 'pleasure garden' around which visitors could walk and be presented with a series of living pictures. 

Blandy, dressed in the orange uniform of a Buddhist Shaolin Monk, barefoot, with long hair and glasses, could be found playing 1970's soul music on a portable record player. Blandy's Hermit was essentially a re-enactment of the original Hermit, who was employed by the Hon Charles Hamilton, the creator of Painshill Park, in the 1740s to "continue in the Hermitage for seven years, where he would be provided with a Bible, optical glasses, a mat for his feet, a hassock for his pillow, an hour-glass for his timepiece, water for his beverage and food from the house. He must wear a camlet robe, and never, under any circumstance, must he cut his hair, beard or nails, stray beyond the limits of Mr Hamilton's grounds or exchange one word with the servant". He was to be paid 700 guineas if he lasted seven years. Legend has it that he lasted three weeks before being found intoxicated at a nearby hostelry. 

During his stay at Painshill, David Blandy maintained a special diary in the format of a comic book to record his thoughts and experiences.


'Five Boroughs of the Soul'  2004

DVD 12 Mins

Blandy travelled to New York to perform a pilgrimage to the places that held a particular romantic fascination for him. He made the journey around the five boroughs, dressed as his quasi-mythical alter-ego, The Barefoot Lone Pilgrim.

Made in Association with Grizedale Arts for "Romantic Detachment" at PS1/MoMa, New York, USA in 2004

'Soul of the USA', 2004

A photographic record of a pilgrimage across America from the East Coast to the West Coast, ending up in New York. Made in Association with Grizedale Arts for "Romantic Detachment" at PS1/MoMa, New York, USA in 2004

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'Soul of the Lakes' 2005

DVD, 25 mins

In Soul of the Lakes, the Lone Pilgrim walked between the only two record shops in the Lake District in the north of England, searching for soul. 

Grizedale Arts Commission

'Soul of London' 2006

DVD, 15 mins

Commissioned for "Represent", David Blandy & Saskia Holmkvist, Gasworks Gallery, London, 1 April- 7 May 2006


'Origins' 2007

DVD, 8 mins

'Samurai Story'  2008

DVD & Comic
A series of filmed performances in which the Barefoot Lone Pilgrim attempts to live out aspects of the samurai Hagakure amid an English recreation of a Japanese Tea Garden.

Commisioned by Parabola for 'Tatton Park Biennial" 2008

Tatton Park Biennial Artist Page

Details from The Way of the Barefoot Pilgrim: Samurai story written by David Blandy, illustration by Daniel Locke 2008, 32 page A6 comic, 2008