by Zadok Ben-David, located 1986, removed 1996
Zadok Ben David’s work consists of seven deer, each with an emblem risingfrom its head, back or tail, relating to some aspect of the secret animal and vegetable life of the forest. In these sculptures the flourescent objects are more rounded and appear more real than the shadowy forms of the deer, who are rarely to be glimpsed, but whose presence in the Dean is a vital one. The figure which appears as the antlers on one deer, and the figure which has become part of one astonished deer’s tail are the only two human figures sculpted in the forest, perhaps indicating man’s transient presence there.
It is significant that the artists have not chosen to make a human figure, as if the human element would have been an intrusion.. There are, however, two small figures contained in the sculpture of Zadok Ben David, which puts the human presence in perspective, by suggesting that they are only apparent in the consciousness of the deer, who preceded man in their habitation of the land. Zadok Ben David’s deer are made as if in silhouette, and remind one of the animals inscribed on the walls of the caves at Lascaux inhabited by Cro-Magnon man. They are drawn in two dimensions rather than realised fully in three dimensions, to suggest the fleeting glimpses that we have of this secretive creature, whose progress through the forest can often only be observed in the footprints which it leaves in the earth. The deer have always occupied a central place in the life of the Dean, being hunted by the kings who laid claim to the forests of England for this purpose. Zadok Ben David has wittily called the piece As there is no hunting tomorrow to suggest a holiday freedom for the deer.
Zadok Ben David’s deer are not literal representations but creatures of the imagination, suggesting the mysterious, unseen life of the forest. The objects that emanate from them are like the subjects of their dreams, or the simple thoughts they have as they make their carefree way through the forest. Bird, fish, lizard, flower, tree are emblems of the world which the deer inhabit, sculpted in round forms and bright colours to indicate the vividness of their reality compared to the leaner forms of the deer themselves, and the even more insubstantial figures man.
Zadoc Ben David’s work is the stuff of fairy tale with all its illogicality and fantasy. He was born in the Yemen from a family of silversmiths, and there is a filigree fineness to his work, a desire to contrast the neutral earth colours with a jewel-like brilliance of colour. This contrast of muted and fluorescent colour reflects the different worlds of reality and imagination, and also the cultures of the Middle East and England within which the artist has worked. His work has a nomadic, restless character, which accords with the quicksilver nature of the animals he depicts
Six months before I started working on this project, I visited the Forest of Dean for the first time. I remember being fascinated by the variety of the landscape and the colours; hills and valleys - the open and the intimate.
Gradually I found myself more interested in the concept of keeping the spirit of the wood with its natural habitat, yet at the same tune adding new images which seem at odds with the environment. I wanted to make a group of sculpture as part of an intimate surrounding. I built a group of deer, all black like their own shadows, mostly facing in one direction, and yet each one acting as if he is alone in the forest, caught in his own world, with his own fantasy visible. To achieve this I used very bright colours to stress both the alienation and the individuality.
Zadok Ben David, 1986