We’re very excited to report that we’re now in the thick of planning for the first colour transformation at the first and most westerly of the seven trees: the Wasdale Oak.
We won’t be wrapping the tree. We won’t be painting it. The colour intervention involves the draping of over 100 metres of yellow cloth to create a line between the oak tree and the shoreline of Wastwater.
We were at the tree recently, measuring and checking the land around it. Taking it in turns: one of us holding one end of the 30m climbing rope, the other walking down the slope, unravelling. As we followed the direct line down from the tree, tracing the reach of its roots and pacing the land right down to the water, we felt the interconnectedness of the many elements in this landscape: water, earth, root systems, trees, air, sky and us, passing through.
The line that runs the 110 metres from tree trunk to water’s edge will be visible from the opposite shore of the lake. It’s a simple gesture and a symbolic thread of life, connectivity, action and will power.
What’s in a colour?
We have chosen to use the seven colours to transform our seven trees for a couple of reasons. This being a project using photography, which is in the literal sense ‘painting with light’, the colour spectrum is an obvious point of reference. The word ‘spectrum’ was introduced by Isaac Newton in the seventeenth century, when he remarked on the way that white light, when passed through a prism, reveals different colours. Newton identified the seven colours of the spectrum – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet – the same colours that are seen in a rainbow and most of us learn as children, with the aid of simple rhymes.
Many hundreds of years before Newton came up with his spectrum, the seven colours had been connected with energy points or ‘chakras’ in the human body by Indian philosophers; they are often referred to in yoga and meditation processes. The colours and their vibrational frequencies can be used to symbolise different elements of (human) nature, life stages and wellbeing, beginning with the groundedness of the red base, or root, chakra. The association of colour with human sensations and emotions appeals to us: it is an aid to exploring in more depth our own personal processes as we journey through the year and through the land, and consider the way we as humans identify and respond to our environment. We’ll be drawing on the colour symbolism in meditations at the trees, as well as in the art installations.
The colour yellow, which we are using in Wasdale, is linked with the third chakra and the solar plexus. This is a centre for action. The association has found its way into common language – we all know what it means to act on your ‘gut’. You could think of it as a meeting point between feelings (rising from the groin and the belly) and thoughts (arising in the mind). The energy rising from the solar plexus is the fire that gets things going, that enables the translation of ideas into action; it is the point of spontaneous action resulting from a natural drive for survival. Such action often follows the line of least resistance.
We’ve chosen to use yellow as our first installation precisely because it is linked with action, and the will to make things happen. It’s our first active intervention in the landscape. And it’s a reminder of our collective human responsibility to this planet and the way we care for it – with trees as one very important part of the global ecosystem.
Connection and separation
When we install the line there will be a gap where the public footpath runs across it. This physical break in the colour prompts some questions: Do we see ourselves as part of nature or outside it? How inevitable is humans’ separation from the flow of natural processes, at this time in history, with the exponential rise in our use of technology? Do we see a connection between the number and health of trees, and their location, and the health of the planet? What value do we place on our own physical, active, connection with the natural world around us?
In the installation of the yellow line we’ll also be referencing the ever-falling screes in this remarkable piece of landscape where tons of rock, shattered into millions of stones, slowly tumble towards the bed of England’s deepest lake. For two weeks in May, this view will be slightly different:
Between now and May, we are planning the practical installation – we are preparing the cloth so that it will be easy to peg down, and planning dates to carry it in. Harriet will be inscribing a poem onto the material so that words, along with colour, will follow gravity down hill.
The installation will be in place in the second half of May and will coincide with the Lakes Ignite festival, whose theme this year is water.