Karen Tang: Cedrus Maximus


Cedrus Maximus celebrates the Cedar of Lebanon’s (Cedrus Libani) enormous status throughout recorded history. King Solomon’s Temple was built with timber from the Cedar of Lebanon. The Egyptians used its resin to embalm their dead and sawdust of the tree is said to have been found in the pharaohs’ tombs. It is estimated that Walpole Park’s two own famous cedars have been on site around a hundred years before its most renowned owner Regency architect Sir John Soane took up residency in Pitzhanger Manor situated at the north end of the park. Soane had in his library Essays on the Microscope (1787) by Royal Optician and Instrument Maker George Adams where the Cedar of Lebanon is described as the ‘stateliest tree of the forest’ Nowadays, the cedar’s wood, oil and resin are still highly prized across various cultures for uses ranging from furniture to medicinal and ceremonial purposes. It is the national emblem of Lebanon and displayed on their flag.

The title of Cedrus Maximus also refers to the gigantic, science-fictional scale imagined by the sculpture. The microscopic cross-section of a Cedar of Lebanon’s needle leaf, is approximately a millimetre in height. If the needles were scaled up to the size of the sculpture a tree would be impossibly gigantic: 68 kilometers high (or 42.25 miles - roughly the distance from London to Reading or Guildford) into the Mesosphere, the layer above the Stratosphere in the Earth’s atmosphere. The work plays with Soane’s fascination with natural forms, formal experimentation with space and light and interest in optical distortion.

Cedrus Maximus has been commissioned by Ealing Council for Walpole Park with Heritage Lottery Funding.