Part 12 of Joy and Tranquillity digital guide

Chrystel Lebas describes her installation

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In this room you will walk through a series of monumental colour photographs of ancient forests in Japan and America. I travelled to the Hoh Rain Forest in Washington State, USA, in search of a place free of human noise called “one square inch of silence”, and then on to the Japanese island of Yakushima, known for its ‘Yakusugi’ or cedar trees. These two primaeval temperate rainforests contain some of the oldest living trees in the world.

I took these photographs with a panoramic medium-format analogue camera. The large format expands the field of vision and the analogue process allowed me to slow down the act of looking. The photographs were taken at twilight with long exposures, which helps me to capture great detail and gives the photographs the intense vivid greens and browns, and multiple focal points in tiny details. The large colour prints are unglazed, so they envelop you and draw you right into the forest.

The framed photographs are displayed on bespoke walls covered in fabric that are placed at angles throughout the gallery, prompting you to walk into the forest. At the end of the walk there are a series of large photographs that I called monuments, representing images of singular trees. Each tree is photographed in three large parts from top to bottom, and they are stacked together to reconstruct the entire tree so that these monuments translate the feeling of being dominated by the ancient trees.

As you enter the installation you can hear a soundscape composed with sounds I recorded on location in these forests, including different types of bird species chirping and singing, Macaques’ chattering and Yaku deers calling each other, with water sounds such as rain and babbling streams encountered in the rainforest. You might also smell the scent of petrichor that evokes wet soil after the rain. I wanted to create a tranquil environment that translates my experience of being alone in these awe-inspiring landscapes to the gallery.

Please sit down on the comfortable seating positioned throughout the gallery so that you can spend time in this calming environment. 

About the speaker

Photograph of Chrystel Lebas

Chrystel Lebas

Chrystel Lebas is a French visual artist based in London. Interested in looking at how landscapes contain psychological significance in relation to visually concealed histories, Chrystel uses photography and the moving image to address a wider understanding of the complex encounter between humans and nature. She has exhibited internationally, and her work is in private and public collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) and the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris). Her publications include ‘Field Studies: Walking through Landscapes and Archives’ (2017), winner of the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Best Photography Book 2018.