Chestnut by Rachel Gundry

Chestnut by Rachel Gundry

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This carving, by Rachel Gundry, celebrates the word ‘Chestnut’, and was created as part of our exhibition ‘The Lost Words - Forget-me-not.’ For this exhibition artists have created a permanent record of the natural words removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Size:  21 x 20cm

NOUN: CHESTNUT

A glossy hard brown edible nut which develops within a bristly case and which may be roasted and eaten.

Early 16th century: from Old English chesten (from Old French chastaine, via Latin from Greek kastanea) + nut.

The idea of words being ‘lost’ is poignant, imparting those words, and the objects they represent, with a fragile or even doomed air. There is an urge to mark a shift in our shared basic vocabulary which I wanted to be part of.

For me, the act of carving in stone one of these words is a celebration, not commemoration. Words are ephemeral and symbolic, but the animals and plants represented by them are living and will withstand this loss. Our children live in an amazing culture of shared technology, where ideas, thoughts and knowledge can be experienced communally, and new language needs to evolve and be understood.

However, the anxiety we feel is that children will grow up less and less attached to the natural world, and a past we already feel nostalgic for. Maybe they will not need to know the names of different trees (for example), as they live in an environment where there are few trees and they do not think it significant to notice all the differences.

I grew up in a part of the city where there were many trees. I have always loved the horse chestnut trees, with their leaves like hands, and the gnarly twisted bark of the sweet chestnut tree. The carving is a homage to them both, and all the rich resonance of the wonderful word ‘chestnut’ that conjures up warmth, colour, food, and Autumn my favourite time of year

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