winter walking in the Lake District

Rob and Harriet Fraser are a photographer-writer duo who immerse themselves in multi-faceted encounters with the natural world; slowed down and marinated until the textures of bigger things are revealed.

The Long View is a great example. This elegant and open-ended project takes as its starting point a deceptively simple concept: seven lone trees in disparate locations, standing initially for nothing very much and nowhere in particular, but eventually interconnecting with everywhere and everything.

Seven is a number with mythic powers in many world traditions, and connects to the ‘chakras’ of bodily energy balance, here perhaps inviting questions about the health of the planet.

The modest two walls of this show then suddenly become a window onto the rest of the world. What initially appears as a display of photographs and texts is in fact a skilfully self-curated journey through poetry, research, community engagement, printmaking, storying, expeditions, place-philosophy, imagery, meditation and environmental concerns.

Rob’s immaculate photographs range from monochrome traceries mounted like archive drawings, to huge colour tree-portraits with ambiguous hovering viewpoints that seem to sense the very curvature of the earth.

Harriet’s thought-cloud journal musings, spare, haiku-inspired poems and silkscreened word-art pieces are interspersed with factual captions and titles etched on blocks cut from the relevant species. There are dates, altitudes and coordinates, but no botanical names – these are exercises in navigating inner and outer spaces, not laboratory deconstructions.

The most interesting part of this work is where the pair have found a closer fusion of their respective practices, with temporary ‘colour transformation’ interventions at the seven Cumbrian trees, documented in a variety of media and set alongside elements of a ‘walking art’ practice.

With lifespans that are comparable to a human’s, yet often extending way beyond, trees are one of our readiest ways of accessing the past and future. We mark their ringed witnessing of our ancestors, plant them as memorials for our grandchildren, and anthropomorphise their limbs and seasonal mood-shifts. The Long View takes this a step further, by isolating the experience of ‘unremarkable’ individual specimens, paradoxically making them more remarkable as a result. Intelligent sampling in this way may give us a better handle on the ‘big picture’ than trying to suck in as much data as possible. Like the tragic Syrian boy washed up at Bodrum who became a graspable symbol of the refugee crisis, a single tree might speak for the world’s forests and their perils.

Ultimately therefore perhaps The Long View is a morality meditation. Like the chakras, its seven trees offer a kind of cultural acupuncture: pinpoints of a stimulus that should awaken and invigorate our entire sensibility.

We’re very excited that some of the work from The Long View, and reflections on the treefolds, will be included in an exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park from May – October, as part of the Common Ground art collective.

The Long View exhibition will be going to Oxford for the month of May as part of their annual Art Month, and then to Brighton to kick off the month of June. Preview dates are May 8th for Oxford and May 31st for Brighton