Elm Memorial (Pt.2)

elm icon

Udate on the elm memorial idea I wrote about originally back in October- after the first storms of the stormiest of winters. Re read that entry HERE

Things have moved on a pace since then. I have linked up East Sussex County Council's Anthony Becvar- who is now managing the counties reponse to Dutch Elm Desease- and the attempts at protecting the population we still have along the Sussex coast.

With his help the project has sercured the timber- and we're still working and hoping to get a bit of funding as well (if you have any thoughts or would like to help with a bit of finance- don't be shy- drop me a line!)

I've just finnished putting together a Submission to enter the sculpture into the Towner Gallery's 'East Susex Open 2014' The Judging will be announced towards the end of March and the exhibition will run from July to Septemmber- more information HERE

I thought I share the submission with you- which could mean I end up with egg on my face if it doesn't make it into the exhibition!:

Artist Statement:

As an artist I return constantly to wood both as a material to use, to shape and create with, or to record the trees in the landscape in paint and print. The material and habitat inspire me in so many ways and at so many levels; the natural world I live within is dominated by trees. I am fixated by bare winter trees on a horizon, the rhythm, the mathematics of their fundamentals stripped bare for all to see.
The ecosystems that grow up around these living giants - from the dark Wealden woodlands to the wind sculpted trees on the South Downs provides me with endless inspiration and solace.

Our constant interaction with trees and woodland has evolved. The understanding and exploitation man has had with each species' individual strengths, leading to what purposes that timber was ultimately used for, is a source of great wonder to me.  Over time, then, both humanity and woodland have shaped each other. I am myself intimately involved in an incredibly specialised use of wood, that of wood engraving and printing with box wood - a centuries old understanding and the exploitation of those very unique set of qualities box wood has.

I am also seduced by the endless cycle of renewal and decay witnessed both over the course of a calendar year and the life cycle of the tree itself - and also by man's interruption of this process and the endless ways he finds of preserving and prolonging various stages of this cycle for his own benefit.

I am fascinated by the near futility of this - and a lot of my sculptural work reflects this - my huge complex bonfire sculptures are reduced to their molecular state by fire, usually within 48 hours of them being built. This both reflects the cycle of conception and decay in the natural world and forever prevents the art work becoming a tradeable commodity. And can only be truly enjoyed during its destruction.

Almost all my sculpture uses this natural process to slowly enhance the sculpture as it ages and is weathered.


My entry takes the form of a sculpted elm 'screen' in two interleaving c shaped panels sweeping from 4' to 9' high and measuring 14' long. It will be firstly a memorial to this fated tree, the planks themselves will be sourced from the Cuckmere valley and felled as part of ESCC Dutch Elm disease control programme. The planks will be cut to form a lattice. This will be achieved by carving half way through the thickness of the planks on both sides (see attached photo's of the Village Gateway). One side will suggest a winter copse of elms with a rookery spread across it's upper branches. Cut through both sides will be a circle representing the sun setting (or rising depending on the viewers take on the sculptures message). At the base of the planks of the side showing the trees will be the legend
 "Ad gigantes augustos olim per terram nostrum pervagatos, nunc defectos”

Which translates as:- A memorial to the lost, majestic giants once spreading through our land. This will be traditionally carved in a monumental Roman Serif- in Latin to represent the past.

On the reverse side of the screen will be the sun with cloud formations hinting at the wonderful inter woven grain of the elm. And at the base will be a message of hope that all is not lost and with careful stewardship the remaining elms that we are privileged to live amongst here in this part of Sussex can and will survive.  Written in English to represent the present
" The last bastion, shielded so future generations may still know of them."

Across the trees will be the silhouettes of flying rooks  These will be laser cut, rusted steel- included to reinforce the point that nothing stands alone, every living being on the planet inter connects and relies on each other.

One of the properties of this wood is it's excellent weathering properties- it results in a sculpture that changes, refreshes and, I feel will improve with age.

ESCC and The Conservation Foundation are just beginning a Heritage Lottery Funded project in the Cuckmere Valley (where the elm for the piece will be sourced) called ‘Ulmus Maritima’. The aim of the project is not only to provide some extra funding for the control programme, but also to raise awareness of the elm population that still stands here and bring residents, visitors, community groups, the local press and schools together to enhance their knowledge and love for this magnificent tree. My entry to the Towner’s E.S.O will be supported by the project and will hopefully be the subject of a “making of” documentary that should feature in an educational DVD about elm in the area.  It is hoped that the local authorities and conservation groups will be able to use the sculpture to promote their mission and gain valuable support from the local community on who they rely to assist in the protection of these last mature Elms.

 The BBC have expressed an interest in the filming the making of this sculpture and the Conservation Foundation have contacts with the national press who have also shown an interest in following the project. ESCC will be promoting the project through local presses and have suggested using the piece to help promote their work.

plan Sketch KeithAPettit

Plan sketch

Trees 1

trees 2

Side one - Trees

sun 1

sun 2

Side - 2 sunset/Rise side

Village Gateway KeithAPettit

Here's a photo form the Village Gateway I made back in 2008 the Elm Memorial will be similar to this in the way it is carved - More information on the Village Gateway HERE


 Basket of Flowers KeithAPettit

This is a photo of one of my bonfire sculptures - HERE's a link to the most recent one I made back in November

Update: I spent a morning (6th March 2014) photographing the Elms that will become the sculpture HERE


Tags: Keith Pettit, Elm Sculpture, Elm memorial