David Nash, 1986

“While in Grizedale Forest, Cumbria, working as resident sculptor in 1978, I often came across centuries-old charcoal burners’ sites - oval level spaces, barely discernible on the hillside, with always the same combination of plants. These spaces, although nearly invisible, had a sense of the human being. The experience of these spaces made a deep impression on me. The Forest of Dean also has a history of charcoal manufacture, and the idea for Black Dome arose from these thoughts.” David Nash

From the embankment of a disused railway line, a black dome shape could be seen against the colours of the bracken. A charcoal stack or an ancient burial mound? Whatever it was, you sensed a quiet presence in the landscape. On closer inspection the dome was made of tapered and charred larch poles, situated at the centre of a ring of trees.

Using around a kilometre of larch, David Nash and Charlie Everett charred nine hundred pieces over two weeks. A hole, 25ft wide and 18 inches deep, was dug by a machine and partly filled with gravel for drainage. The stakes were graded to create a dome, with each piece wired together to prevent movement.

Black Dome was decommissioned in 2020. In the artist’s words: “I envisage the sculpture gradually reintegrating with its environment, rotting down gradually-fungus, leaf-mould, plants adding to its progress of ‘return’ – leaving eventually a vestige of the original form, a slight hump. Rather than make an object that resists the elements of nature, I try to find ways of engaging those elements so the object is continually active in the environment. What I had not envisaged was visitors’ desire to walk over the dome, and by so doing polishing it. On a recent visit it seemed like a stroked cat.”

About the Artist

David Nash was born in 1945. Raised in Surrey, he studied at Kingston College of Art (1963-1967) and at Chelsea School of Art (1969-1970). He is best known for his large wood sculptures and land art, such as Wooden Boulder (1978-ongoing) and Ash Dome (1977-ongoing). Since his first solo exhibition at Queen Elizabeth Hall, York (1973), he has held solo shows annually around the world. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2004.