Paul Cocksedge suspends over 2,000 pieces of coal in Liverpool Cathedral
British designer Paul Cocksedge has created a sculpture made from high-carbon coal, which was hung and illuminated inside Liverpool Cathedral as a comment on our fossil fuel dependency.
Named Coalescence, the installation consists of more than 2,000 pieces of coal with a combined weight of over half a tonne, which according to Cocksedge is the amount of coal consumed by a 200-watt light bulb if illuminated for a year.
"Seeing this piece firsthand really enables you to visualise where energy comes from," he told Dezeen. "This could be a trigger point for conversations around moving away from fossil fuels and towards more sustainable alternatives."
Pieces of anthracite – a compact form of coal with a high carbon content – were attached to wires and hung from the cathedral's ceiling to form the spherical sculpture, which has a diameter of six metres.
Spotlights surround the sphere and illuminate the pieces of anthracite to highlight the coal's lustrous, textured surface and cast shadows onto the surrounding walls.
"When you first see this piece, there's a sense of astonishment that it's made from coal and that is an important part of the experience," the designer said.
"Creatively, this piece is about extracting material from the ground, lifting it upwards and illuminating it. It's about allowing people to see something familiar in such an unfamiliar way, which creates a shift in your preconception."
The coal was sourced from a mine in south Wales, which Cocksedge discovered when searching for larger pieces of coal than he could find in London.
"I stumbled across one of the last remaining coal mines in the UK, which is harvesting a high-carbon form of coal called anthracite," he said.
"This added a new dimension to the work because it was a catalyst to learn more about coal. Not all of it is burned, for example, and anthracite is used for water filtration because of its high carbon content."
"Involvement in the sourcing of materials and the manufacturing is an important part of what the studio does," Cocksedge continued. "Experiencing that materiality firsthand was transformative and an important part of the development of this piece."
Coalescence is on display at Liverpool Cathedral until 12 March 2023. But Cocksedge is also exploring ways to showcase the installation in other locations.
"It felt right to debut the installation in a contemplative space where people visit with a mind that's open to the bigger questions of today," he said.
"We've had an amazing response from the public and lots of people asking us if we'd be interested in touring the artwork."
Other recent installations completed by Cocksedge include an undulating communal bench in Hong Kong and a sculpture made of steel and metal fabric that is draped from the ceiling of a London office building.
The photography is by Mark Cocksedge.