Onya McCausland, 2015

The huge heap of charcoal made by burning “Place” was so visually and physically related to coal that my first urge was to return the charcoal to the ground — where it ‘belonged’ — and where its life began in the form of an oak tree.

The ‘coal measures’ underlying the Forest are a record of a geological cycle of transformation, and their exploitation as fossil fuel a record of our relationship with the Earth. I am interested in how these two material processes — geological and human — intersect, overlap and converge in the Forest.

Onya McCausland

Charcoal Measure was a temporary sculpture made from charcoal produced from the remains of Place, a decommissioned sculpture by Magdalena Jetelová. Onya McCausland was approached by the Trust to lead the process of decommissioning through an act of transformation, burning the giant oak chair in a charcoal pile, in collaboration with charcoal burning experts. The resulting artwork consisted of charcoal compressed into a series of black trenches scored into the ground.

The work enabled visitors to the Sculpture Trail to trace the locations of hidden coal excavations that exist 1000ft underground. Artist Onya McCausland worked closely with the Deputy Gaveller of the Forestry Commission in Coleford to explore surveys of old mines and map the charcoal markings on the surface of the Trail.

In 2016, soon after Charcoal Measure was installed, McCausland curated Charcoal Works, an exhibition in partnership with Hardwick Gallery, University of Gloucestershire. 17 more artists created artworks for the exhibition made from Place’s remaining charcoal.

More information about this project can be found by reading about Place.

About the Artist

Onya McCausland lives and works in London. She received her MFA from Slade School of Fine Art, UCL in 1999 and her PhD in 2017. A research project in collaboration with the UK Coal Authority, Turning Landscape, examines the waste materials of coal mining and explores their use as paint pigment. Her work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy London (2012, 2016), Camden Arts Centre (2014), Anima Mundi, Cornwall (2018) and Helsinki Contemporary (2020). You can read more about McCausland's work on her website.