by Cornelia Parker, sheet lead, located 1988, removed 1990
“My five week residency started in mid-August. I spent my first few days walking and walking; the possibilities for sculpture were endless, many of these I discounted as not being feasible considering time, facilities and cost. Rupert Martin had invited me to do a residency knowing I differed from the previous artists in the fact that I worked in manmade materials, metals such as copper and lead.
I had to resist making work out of the natural materials in abundance around me. I wanted to leave an urban mark on the forest, to make reference to its industrial history, but slowly my rural past (I was brought up in the country on a small-holding) began to re-emerge and my initial intentions became blurred.
I became immersed in the spirituality of the forest, and in my trance-like walks began to forget the industrial imagery and to collect favourite spots, trees and atmospheres. 1 found myself, like other ramblers, gathering leaves and tree fruits to identify when I got back to my caravan.
As I walked continuously around the forest 1 began to be attracted to the dead bits; a tree that had fallen and been caught in another. The dead roots had, for some reason, been cut off a long time before, leaving a stump inexplicably hanging in space; a stagnant pool dotted with rotting trees abundant in bracket fungi; a beech tree that had very few leaves due to tack of light. These spots I wanted to reclaim, to draw attention to their poignancy, a sculptural requiem or elegy.
Every Saturday during my residency I would give a guided tour to visitors to the sculpture trail. They would respond in varying degrees of hostility or appreciation to the work, occasionally they would jokingly point out imaginary sculptures along the route as they started to appreciate the forest in a sculptural way. I decided I would like to leave small discreet works along the trail that could almost be mistaken for natural phenomenon to provoke even more intimate scrutiny. The trail followers would be on constant alert for hidden sculptures, in contrast to those listed and described on the map.
During the tours people quickly became used to the idea that sculpture could exist off a plinth and be site specific. The locals and forestry workers had been won over slowly to the trail, helped by the contact they had with the process and the outgoing personalities of the previous artists-in-residence. They had come to love certain pieces and used others as scapegoats on which to air their grievances. They never tired of them as conversation points and positively relished the arrival of a new crop of work and sculptors.
The work I made over the weeks of my stay took the form of three small pieces. The first, a series of nine small copper crowns (approx l0”x l10”x 5”) encircled in copper leaves. The crowns were already patinated to a verdigris green, the new copper leaves I hoped would eventually become green as the real leaves were becoming copper. As there were nine crowns, each represented a different species of tree. These crowns were hung near to Hanging Fire as a flurry of falling leaves in the denuded beech tree I had come to love in my wanderings. Like the rusting iron flames they would chemically change colour, from copper to green.
On a hanging tree stump I nailed individually modelled sheet lead oak leaves to form an unravelling wreath, the central leaf appearing to be on the point of dropping off to join a small pile of dead leaves on the ground. This piece I called Unravelling Oak I liked the idea that the whole tree was made up of hundreds of layers of tightly packed leaves that when they died unravelled like an endless chain of DNA. The third piece was for the stagnant pond; to two dead trees I attached hand-fashioned sycamore leaves cut out of sheet lead. They were nailed to the trees then bent upwards to mimic bracket fungi that was covering the nearby rotting stumps.”
From notes by Cornelia Parker