'A Wood in France' depicts Mametz Wood near the River Somme in northern France.
In July 1916 Mametz Wood was the scene of a fierce battle between British and German forces. Over a period of 5 days of intense close quarter fighting, the Welsh Division suffered nearly 4000 casualties as they struggled to prise the well-defended wood from its German Defenders.
Amongst those wounded in the battle was the artist, writer and soldier, David Jones (1895-1974). The experience was stay with him for the rest of his life and after the war the battle became the setting for the climactic scene in his literary masterpiece 'in Parenthesis'.
When I was asked to produce a piece of artwork to accompany a WW1 related touring performance called 'Journey Through Conflict - From Then Until Now', I found myself turning to David Jones for inspiration and I began forming an idea to make Mametz Wood the subject of my artwork. With a copy of 'In Parenthesis' in hand I headed for France and exactly 102 years after David Jones had fought his way into the wood I stood there and contemplated what had taken place there. Needless to say the experience was a profound one for me as I tried to imagine the battle.
As I planned the artwork I considered trying to draw the battle or the shattered state of the wood after the battle but in the end I decided to depict exactly what I saw - just an ordinary wood in France and to share with the audience, as well as I was able, a sense of what it felt like to be in that space with it's ghosts and echoes of the battle.
Before leaving Mametz I gathered some branches from the wood and some earth from the area of a German trench. When I returned to my studio in Exeter I used the earth to make pigment for painting and the branches to make charcoal for drawing. The entire artwork is produced from these elements.
Richard Rochester is a UK artist who lives and works in Exeter in the south west of England