As part of its centenary celebrations, the Forestry Commission has developed Future Forest, a dramatic sculptural installation designed by Artistic Director Tom Piper MBE and featuring life-size sculptural figures created by internationally renowned artist Lisa Wright. The artists present the figures as custodians of the forest, tasked with protecting it for the benefit of future generations. They illustrate the vital role that trees and woodlands play in safeguarding the future of our planet, their youthful forms aligning them with the next generation whose role it must be to act as custodians of our forests.
PK Khaira Creswell, Director of the Forestry Commission’s centenary programme, said ‘This sculpture trail will stop visitors to Thetford Forest in their tracks, both for the beauty of the figures and the drama the installations bring to the landscape.
Amid the climate crisis, England’s trees and woodlands have never been so important for people and nature. As our centenary year draws to a close, we want people to pause and consider their role as custodians of our forests, helping us to protect and enhance them for the next 100 years.’
Tom Piper’s innovative approach to structure and space is well known from his most recent large-scale collaborative project, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London. For Future Forest, Tom is working in a forest environment for the first time. He has designed a series of structures inspired by the different forest landscapes that they sit within – a majestic avenue of Corsican Pine trees, a ghostly clearing and a view from the forest edge looking out onto a dramatic expanse of open land… Tom comments that ‘each location for the figures has a very different feel but as a whole they create a coherent journey. Sometimes they are quoting the formal setting of statues seen at the end of long avenues, and at other moments allowing a surprise encounter at close quarters with a figure nestled within a clearing.’
Tom’s structures will be animated by the placement of Lisa’s figures within them. Lisa has made the figures using bio resins, a greener alternative to traditional plastics which yield a smooth and durable finish: this compliments Lisa’s painterly process and offers a new surface upon which she can explore and extend her distinctive technique and use of colour. Taking the form of a host of well-known characters from the Classical canon, the figures embody the spirit of endurance. Though they are rooted in the past, they have survived into the present and doubtless will survive into the future too. They are presented as the custodians of the forest, their youthful forms linking them to the next generation: the future custodians of our forests.
Each individual element of this project is designed to raise awareness of the fact that resilient though they are, the forests of the future will not be able to survive and prosper unless they are sustainably managed, and the responsibility for ensuring that this happens will be carried forward by future generations. In the one hundred years since the founding of the Forestry Commission after the First World War, the UK’s forests have grown and prospered. Today the Commission manages over 1,500 woodlands and forests spread over approximately 250,000 hectares – these range from Northumberland to Cornwall, Shropshire to Norfolk. In recognition of this centenary milestone in the Forestry Commission’s history, Future Forest is both a celebration and a call to action, using drama and the age-old power of storytelling to instill within the public a desire to protect the forests of the future.