COAL MEASURE GIANTS 2016
Cast iron- 230 x 210 x 25cm Tree fossil - 200cm x 80 x 80cm
Cast iron 600 x 25 cm Tree fossil - 230 x 110 x 80cm
The sculpture, Coal Measure Giants tells a story of coal in the Forest of Dean, albeit through its absence in the imagery of the piece. It brings to the surface aspects of what lies hidden to most people below the ground of the Sculpture Trail, bringing together different periods of the Forest’s history both geological and industrial. The two sculptures have two elements each, both being castings, one natural and one man-made, which originate from the same land. The carboniferous forests that make up the Coal Measures are symbolized in one of these elements; a large stone taken from a local quarry, which carries the casts of trees from 300 million years ago and evidence the very same tree types that can be seen in the ceilings of the mines. An instant dialogue is set up between two landscapes 300 million years apart when bringing the tree fossils up from the underground and placing them in the living forest.The second element of the sculptures are two cast iron forms cast from a larch set. These sets can be seen throughout the mines and are used to brace between the layers of sandstone as the coal is removed to form the mine tunnels themselves. The props are a direct representation of the removed coal, cut and formed to the thickness of the coal measure. These are forms that have been left in the ground as the earth, clay and water take back the mine, and the sets become a skeleton of the mine works.
One form is an exact replica of a larch set made by a local free miner, and the other a vertical tree-like form resembling a Calamite, and cast from the three elements of the same set. The larch used to make the set, was felled by the Forestry Commission from the living forest. These man-made casts of trees in the living forest sit alongside natural casts of trees growing 300 million years ago.
The use of iron, as well as having a permanence, relates to coal and iron ore mining being common denominators of the industrial history of the Forest of Dean; the two come together in the larch sets cast in iron.
It is estimated that one meter of coal is the result of 7000 years of plant growth, which gives some kind of a physical measurement of time. This work invites the public to experience a physical expression of the vertical depth of the main coal seam (the Coleford High Delf), which lies 300 meters below the surface by walking this distance between the two sculptures, one of which can be seen from the other in the landscape. The site is very important; the sculptures are placed above actual mine workings in order for the public to be encouraged to visualise what lies below their feet, and to give understanding to the imagery of the sculptures themselves. One of the sculptures is sited close to a stream, which continuously runs red, rising up from underground where iron deposits lie. This element of the piece contrasts the fluid nature of iron and water with the hard, inert nature of the cast iron forms. The presence of iron is evident all over the Forest, coating objects man-made and natural in a mantle of bright orange.