by Miles Davies, located 1988

house

“I already knew the Forest of Dean quite well having assisted Magdalena Jetelova with the construction of the `Giant’s Chair’ the previous year. Whilst there I experienced or sensed a feeling not only of calm but also of solitude, which seemed to pervade the area; a different kind of solitude to that experienced within an urban environment or mountainous landscape, which can feel uncomfortable, even threatening at times.

The forest provides a more comforting form of solitude as the trees giving shelter from the elements imbue the area with a sense of timelessness. There is also a sense of mystery within the darker, more dense parts of the forest and the surrounding past industrial workings, in the form of spoil heaps, underground culverts and disused railways.

I wanted to translate this experience into a sculpture evoking the things I sensed about the forest. The starting point was the choice of Material; my recent work had been predominantly in steel and this medium seemed appropriate as iron ore is indigenous to the Forest of Dean area and remains of mines are scattered throughout the forest. The shape of the structure was conceived both of feelings evoked in me by the forest itself and as a result of the preoccupations I had been exploring in previous work-the nature of the individual in relation to the surrounding environment, the position of the personal within the structures of society these were ideas that I had previously worked on and they seemed to `fit’ what I had in mind for the forest.

The tall linearity of the piece echoed the shape and height of the surrounding trees but was also allied to the image of a mine shaft, the structure was capped by a simple house shape, as a metaphor for the shelter and security of the forest. The linear and angled qualities of the work; while `fitting in’ with the forest, also provided an abrupt juxtaposition visually and conceptually which were to me essential features.

Allowing the steel to rust of its own accord, I felt would give the structure a colour and hue in keeping with the surrounding trees and bracken, and would also be reminiscent of previous industrial workings. In time the rust will gradually eat into the surface which will flake and fall to the forest floor exposing brighter, more vivid patches giving the sculpture a continuously changing colour.

The siting of the sculpture proved to be one of the most difficult tasks; once positioned the `sculpture’ becomes not only the structure itself but also the environment surrounding it. After much searching, a small clearing within one of the denser parts of the sculpture trail seemed most appropriate.

During the summer months the structure would be almost totally hidden by the dense foliage, it would not be wholly seen until one entered the clearing-giving the sculpture an element of surprise. Throughout the winter the abstract shape of the sculpture could be seen through the trees, and this shape would take different forms depending on the light, distance and direction, giving approaching walkers a visual puzzle.

Once the plans for the structure were drawn, the process of making it was relatively straightforward. The main problem was one of scale. As the structure had to be made in my studio this entailed frequent visits to the forest, and the making of a small maquette to ensure that I had got the proportions right The steel was cut to pattern with oxy-propane cutting gear, and clamped in position in the studio. With all the arc welding completed, the entire surface of the structure had to be ground; to flatten the welds and expose the bright steel, enabling the sculpture to rust evenly and quickly when in position.”

Miles Davies