The Tree of Life Stone Maze Earthwork,Tau Tugen Alatau Mountains, Kazakahstan, 1990

In 1990 the Artists Union of USSR, invited Francis to attended an International Sculpture Symposium and for four weeks he was Artist In Residence working on an intervention within the landscape.The site was located at the foot of the Atlantan Mountains, close to the Kirgiz and Chinese borders of Kazakahstan, 65km from the Capital Alma – Ata. The land was arid with loose chippings, stones and pinkish rocks, few trees and a colour pallet of earth pigments – sienna, ochre and burnt sienna.  A former Silk Route it extended towards a fast flowing mountain stream.

The Tree of Life theme, an ancient and popular motif of Kazakahstan decorative arts, was suggested by the organisers. The spirt of the place took hold, and Francis devised a shamanic maze, laid out like a tree. Each area represented a different stage on life’s  journey and were intended to engage all of the senses. Walking speed was controlled by the shaping of surface textures which he sculpted by hand using basic tools. He worked to a circular and cyclical scheme, guided by a rough drawing, response to the site and his senses. He was assisted by a local sculpture student.

During the Sculptural Promenade you encountered four areas: Travelling through the narrower ‘trunk’ of the tree you are reminded of conception and birth; The Maze of Youth with its choices are the ‘branches’; Circle of Maturity and ‘Circle of Infinity,  and nearing the stream the Gates of Death. Symbolic of life’s journey and intended to promote contemplation, the final encounter at the apex of the tree, the ‘Gates of Death’, allows the participant to look back over their life.


‘The plan of the site, the plan of life, the growth of the tree have revealed themselves.The sound of water becomes overpowering as one nears the Gates of Death.’ Francis Carr

Conception – one ascends slowly through a narrow space, and semicircular entrance  flanked by a 1.5m stone pyramid – here life begins. After a steep slop, waking with some difficulty over large chippings, the route separates into ‘branches’  – Maze of Youth (not shown)  where there are learnings and decsission to be made.

View towards Circle of Maturity.

“ I shall relate a unique experience, working on a landscape and sculpture project as without my releasing, it was a spot, where a village, destroyed during the revolution , once stood. The villagers believed that their mountain was bewitched and dotted around the area are some ‘magic’ springs visited by married couples for fertility who tie ribbons to surrounding trees as a ‘lucky charm’…transported into a remote past and inspired by it, happy working with my hands close to the earth – my ideas seemed to flow from an unknown source.” Francis Carr September ’90.


Left: Circle of Maturity- In the middle is a 25m diameter stone that stands on flat ground a place for relaxation and contemplation, the tree nearby provides welcome shade. Right: Gates Of Death  –  The Circle Of Maturity is completed by two vertical stone pillars with views to the sky and mountains, barred by a grill gate, found on site, to prevent the body passing through but the spirit escapes as the sound of water becomes overpowering and its calming effect concluded life’s journey.

The Tree of Life maze, being made from the land it gave rise to, was intended to dissolve back into the landscape.It received much attention and media coverage at the time.