Yesterday I witnessed the artist Magdelena Jetalova, start the charcoal burn of her sculpture ‘Place’ on the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail.
Place, or more affectionately known as the ‘Giant’s Chair’, was intended to be just a temporary piece and it was always Magdelena’s wish to turn it into charcoal – honouring the ancient tradition, found in this corner of England, an industry dating back as far as the Iron Age. It was quite emotional to watch, as a ‘clamp’ (which looked like a mound of turf) was prepared in order to turn Place, into a black, crumbly material.
My first encounter with Place was in 1989, when I was 18 and studying A-level Art History at the local college. I chose the relatively new Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail as my topic and armed with my Olympus camera, I set off and discovered hidden treasures, tucked away in an outdoor woodland art gallery. Back then, Place stood up on a ridge all alone, before all the Chestnut trees claimed the hill for themselves.
Since my student days, I have been back to visit Place countless times, either alone, with friends, with my children or leading groups of young people on numerous educational visits. ‘Place’ was a landmark, a starting point. We always left Beechenhurst Lodge and headed for the Giant’s Chair first. Doing it any other way just didn’t seem right somehow. I have many happy memories standing underneath it. Gazing up and admiring its power as it stood majestically surveying the land below. It has provided a talking point, a reason for a walk, a story to tell.
It was quite surreal this week to watch as Place was taken down. It gave no resistance or put up a fight. It was like it had become tired and weary. Its time had come and I think it was ready to go.
The charcoal clamp now sits on the hill where Place once stood, bellowing smoke across the valley. In a few days, the charcoal will be ready to be harvested, so it will be emptied and the site will be cleared. Although it leaves a void, an empty space, a gap to fill, the charcoal will be given to local artists to create new artwork.
What a fabulous celebration of a well-loved piece of sculpture, that has captured the hearts of so many people. It leaves a wonderful legacy and its thirty year story will live on in this fresh work.