Hill33Venue: Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail
Curators: Carolyn Black
Date: 9th October 2010
Working with the 100 Field Squadron of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers to build the work, the artist has realised one of the most ambitious land art projects in the UK.
Landfill reclaimed from Eastern United Coal Mine is contained in HESCO Concertainer units, which are regularly used by the Army to build shelters and large-scale defence structures in Afghanistan, but also have pseudo-civilian applications and can be employed as flood barriers.
The pyramid-like work is informed both by Cotterrell’s memories of Mayan temples hidden in the rainforests of Central America and his experiences at Camp Bastion and Sangin, Afghanistan, where he was commissioned as a war artist by the Wellcome Trust and the Ministry of Defence in 2008.
Cotterrell’s inversion of conflict-specific design for civilian introspection invites consideration of the role of the military in contemporary Britain. The structure denies obvious monumentality – like Shelley’s Ozymandius, it is destined to return to its source, obscured by the plant life that takes root in its soil.
Of the work, Cotterrell says: “My early visits to the Forest offered an unexpected series of contradictory perspectives. The glades of bluebells, dappled light and fabulous weather offered an idyllic vision of natural beauty. However, it’s also a landscape shaped by historic industries and human intervention. Reclaimed through time, the residue of free-mining, charcoal burning and commercial forestry is discretely camouflaged beneath the prolific growth of plant life.”
Jake McQueen, Product Manager for HESCO Bastion comments: “David saw the HESCO walls and bunkers that protect our troops on operations in Camp Bastion and Sangin, Afghanistan. To the best of our knowledge the product has never been used to form an artwork so imaginative and exciting, which is why we are so delighted to support this project.”
Lieutenant Colonel Peter Fisk, Commanding Officer Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers, said: “The task provided a great chance for soldiers from the Royal Engineers Territorial Army to train for the very task they will conduct on operations. Using the very skills required of the modern-day military engineer on operations and under the watchful eye of the artist, the Territorial Soldiers used their training, experience and equipment to create Hill33.”
The Forestry Commission works with the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust to keep the Sculpture Trail relevant. Hill33 has been further supported by funding from the Gloucestershire Environment Trust and sponsorship from HESCO.
Sculpture Trust Projects Director Carolyn Black commented: “We were very excited to receive David’s proposal as it reflects the Forest’s unique heritage, as well as making a very unusual addition to the work already on the Trail. We are also very grateful to the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers, for helping to build this new work as a training exercise. To our knowledge, it is the highest HESCO structure ever made and the first sculpture in this particular material. I love the way it slowly reveals itself between the trees. I wonder how long it will take for the forest to reclaim Hill33?”