The Art of Getting Lost

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Geltsdale is well known to outdoor enthusiasts in North Cumbria. Four way-marked trails lead walkers into the heart of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its Black Grouse and wading birds attract ornithologists while scholars of industrial archaeology can be found on the quarried flanks of Cold Fell.

But for Carlisle artist Laura M R Harrison, Geltsdale offers a natural studio in which to work through artistic ideas on what it means to be, in the psychologically sense of the word, ‘lost’. This studio had to be carefully researched as Laura would be compounding her disorientation by doing all her work and walking at night.

The familiarity I have with Geltsdale allowed me to feel comfortable working in the dark. I’m interested in how darkness alters our perception, particularly sight and hearing, and how this might affect us mentally and physically.

Although walking isn’t explicit in the art Laura creates, it is a very personal thing which helps the artist ‘step into her work’.

I used to do a lot of walking with my Dad with the Long Distance Walkers Association.  I also took part in the Light the Lakes night walk which has had an influence on the direction my artwork has taken.

Light up the Lakes 2017 | Photo © Tom McNally

Laura spends hours scouting and then working in her chosen open spaces, in daylight at first, to source the two main inspirations behind her work: water and how the landscape reflects itself when darkness comes. Tindale offers both media in abundance but for Laura, it also gave her the chance to host her latest exhibition ‘The Lost Seer Seeks a Sage’ within her work.

For Tindale, it was clear that the work was made and shown in the same location. It became part of the piece that people might see the work as being a different view of the location away from some of the more obvious associations such as wildlife and birds. I was also keen people took the walk from the car park to the gallery,  for people to step away from the normal pace of life, to slow down, to see the place before seeing my interpretation.

The Lost Seer Seeks a Sage | Photo © Laura M R Harrison

Through film, sound, and photography we were invited to explore Tindale through myth, magic, and mayhem. As a keen walker myself, I was intrigued to see Laura’s interpretation of a familiar landscape in an unfamiliar light. For me, the atmospheric sights & sounds of Tindale were amplified through Laura’s interpretations. My walk through the landscape of her work began with crowded thoughts of signposts, directions, and information overload. My walk back was unhurried, thoughtless, and reflective of the sights & sounds of the moorland – quite a transformation and a response to the work of a talented artist.

The Lost Seer Seeks a Sage | RSPB Geltsdale 23 May – 20 June 2015

‘The Lost Seer Seeks a Sage’ represented work carried out at Gelt River and Tindale and forms part of Laura’s final exhibition for a Masters degree in Contemporary Fine Art at Carlisle Art College. Although the installation has now closed, for anyone walking into Geltsdale with any concern for the direction their life may be metaphorically traveling, your exhibition is only just opening.

First written for Brampton Walkers are Welcome website on June 24th 2015

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