The Journal / Roots

Common Roots: Views of Lafite 

Braiding our willows to create new perspectives.

Once a year, we invite a photographer to interpret Château Lafite Rothschild. In 2023, we welcomed Finnish artist Anti Laitinen.

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An artist whose practice lies somewhere in the synergy of Land Art and photography, Antti Laitinen grew up in rural Finland, amidst vast forests of tall evergreens. He has developed a method that uses the landscape as both palette and brush, working directly with the materials of Nature and recording the – often ephemeral – resulting ‘installation’ on film.   Laitinen calls this practice ‘Broken Landscape’ – but in our eyes, his work at Lafite was much more like bending than breaking. 

With his instinctive affinity for trees, Antti was drawn to the centenarian willow trees bordering the gardens at Chateau Lafite Rothschild as the site for his work; depicted on our historic label, these trees form an ancient ‘allee’ that, every spring, fills in with greenery to create peaceful, verdant caverns beneath the sweeping boughs. 

Working in collaboration with our team of gardeners, he balanced carefully on a ladder day after day for a full week, trimming and weaving the pliable willow boughs into perfect circles with painstaking precision. Round ‘windows’ opened in the thick canopy of branches, allowing sunlight to penetrate to the shade beneath – and a viewer within to peer out toward the sky.

Integrated so seamlessly with the surrounding landscape that their subtle presence might easily be missed, and destined to disappear as surely as the season, they were nonetheless exquisite; the light mark of human hands on the natural world. 

And here, perhaps, lie our strongest common roots with the artist; at the heart of Lafite is our desire to collaborate sympathetically with the environment in which we live – a considered bending and weaving of what Nature offers. A shaping of the organic into artistry. And so, Laitinen’s stay at Lafite was inevitably an opportunity for great conversation about our shared passion for living in and alongside Nature and her (often extreme) elements.

In Finland, for instance, Antti hunts for food, and forages during Autumn and Spring; for the remaining six months of the year, darkness lasts close to 24 hours a day, and the landscape is hidden beneath the snow – though that doesn’t stop him swimming in a freezing 10°C sea! We discussed everything from raising children to the making of both art and wine, before he left us to return to his own (somewhat different) land.

His windows in the Lafite willows remained for months after his departure, and reminded us often of our conversations, of meals shared and wine poured. Since, they have disappeared, dissolving back into the landscape as gently as they came. 

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