The grass seemed darker than ever

'The grass seemed darker than ever' is a site-specific public sculpture commissioned by Kielder Art & Architecture for Kielder Forest, Northumberland. The piece is a bright blue 40 metre chestnut paling fence encircling a group of trees in the forest. Inside the fence the floor is painted black.

The commission responded to the site of Kielder Castle, originally built as a hunting lodge for the Duke of Northumberland in the late 18th century. This period in English history was marked by dramatic changes to the landscape as around 1/6th of the land moved from common use to private ownership through the introduction of the Inclosures Acts. The Acts and accompanying laws developed to police the borders between inside and outside marked a highly charged moment in English history. The notion of landscape fundamentally shifted and became more deeply entangled with ideas of territory and personal property rights. Attendant with the codification of this move in law came the physical and material transformation of the landscape through the use of fences and hedges. These physical boundaries became tangible obstacles against the free movement of people and animals through the landscape.

The bright blue of the fence alludes to the “circling sky” above the forest canopy. It also references 19th century poet of the English countryside John Clare, whose poem ‘The Mores’ laments the impact of the enclosure system on the English landscape. Inside the fence the forest floor is painted black in reference to the ‘Black Act,’ a punitive law introduced in 1723 to curtail poaching in response to a swathe of civil unrest sparked by the loss of common land.

This work contributes to research projects at the RCA focused on art in heritage environments; it also offers a platform for discussion and debate with students interested in pursuing site-specific practices across a range of interior and exterior spaces.