A new artwork by London-based artist Onya McCausland will allow visitors to the Forest of Dean’s Sculpture Trail to trace the locations of hidden coal excavations that exist 1,000ft underground.

Charcoal Measure uses charcoal made from the decommission of a previous sculpture, Place, which stood on the site for 29 years. The popular work by Czech artist Magdalena Jetelova was dismantled and burnt, in accordance with her original plans first detailed in 1986.

McCausland, who teaches drawing at the Slade School of Fine Art where she is currently undertaking PhD research, has compressed the charcoal into a series of trenches. The new installation continues her explorations into the relationship between human activity and landscape.

Explaining the process, McCausland says: “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.”

McCausland worked closely with the Forestry Commission‘s deputy gaveller in Coleford to explore surveys of old mine workings and map the charcoal markings on the surface of the trail.

Commenting on her method of transforming materials, McCausland says: “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.”

Charcoal Measure can be viewed at the Forest of Dean’s Sculpture Trail. Charcoal Works, a group exhibition organised by McCausland, opens at the Hardwick Gallery, Cheltenham on 6 April 2016. 

Visit a-n’s Instagram to see images from the Charcoal Works exhibition.

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