Peter Appleton , 1986

“For me the forest turned out to be as much about people as trees. I hadn’t heard of the Forest of Dean before the possibility of a commission arose, and my first imaginings were of a Robin Hood type habitat. The outlaws turned out to be Freeminers and Sheepbadgers, with the Forestry Commission as the Sheriff, though a little more benign. The hero was Gary Trigg who lives at Kensley Lodge in the heart of the Forest. Gary taught me the difference between yew and beech and also introduced me to old ‘WiIf’ who brewed cider. Pleasant evenings were spent on Wilf’s bench overlooking Gloucestershire; very few words but a lot of good feelings.” Peter Appleton

Peter Appleton’s sculpture, Melissa’s Swing, is named after the artists daughter. It was conceived as a kind of Aeolian harp to be suspended in a tree for the wind to activate into sound. Since the wind is less noticeable in summer when most people would visit the sculptures, he attached a rope so that visitors could make the sound for themselves.

Since people were bound to swing on the rope, Appleton completed the piece with a swing, so that people could enjoy the sensation of swinging while the shimmering metallic sounds filtered in and out of the natural sounds of the forest. When softly stirred the sound is like that of the wind in the leaves, but when vigorously shaken, it resembles the sound of thunder. The sculpture alerts us to the many different and subtle sounds of the forest, so that our sense of hearing as well as our sense of sight and touch is stimulated.

Appleton subsequently created two temporary pieces for the forest. Nine Evening Fireflies was an installation of nine tiny red lights in a copse of Canadian Spruce, suggestive of the forest’s thriving insect life. The Wind Chimes was created from a found object in the forest: a cross-section of a pine trunk with six evenly spaced branches. This was placed on a ten-foot pole and fitted with sails and bells made from scrap metal. The pole was installed near to where Appleton stayed in his caravan during his residency; in his words, “I thought the sculpture had a Tibetan feel and rang for the departed.”

About the Artist

Peter Appleton was born in Liverpool in 1955. An artist, lecturer and researcher, he creates publicly situated interactive artworks and music through the use of new and emerging acoustic technologies. He has created many public outdoor works including Solar Soundbox Series (1992-2002) and Whispers in Kanji Wood (2009). Solo exhibitions include Music from Sculpture, Arnolfini, Bristol (1987), God Songs with Brian Eno, Tenkawa, Japan (1989), and Bristol State of Sea, Tate St Ives (1994). He is Reader in Creative Technology at Liverpool John Moores University.