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ROQ Oxford, Art Programme, Site-wide

Simon Periton is the site-wide artist for the University of Oxford's Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ) one of the biggest development projects the University has undertaken for more than a century.  This role was conceived as a key component of the public art strategy in order to create a unique, extensive and memorable cultural identity for the Quarter


Periton’s concept, Pollinator, developed from his research into images of the alchemical tree, a symbol connected with growth, transformation, interdisciplinary collaboration and a quest for knowledge. The central sculpture of an Alchemical Tree with a crown at its trunk is complemented by smaller satellite works across the site, including three roots around bike stands, relating to the central tree both visually and materially.


The Alchemical Tree sculpture is rooted in the ROQ’s history, the physical navigation of the site and the quest for a concept that relates to the site as a whole and evolves with it in the future. The re-housing of several academic departments within the ROQ suggested to him a re-interpretation of a more historical, classical, university model where interaction between different disciplines is actively encouraged, reflecting the development of contemporary ideas within the realms of science as well as art.


The commission was developed in an initial research phase in collaboration with The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), associated departments located on the site, the ROQ Public Art Sub-Committee, Niall McLaughlin Architects, Townshend Landscape Architects and Modus Operandi.


Periton’s appointment is the first ROQ Artist’s Fellowship awarded under Tracing Venus, the public art programme for the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, curated by Modus Operandi.


Simon Periton said:


‘The discovery of the artwork and the physical experience of traversing/navigating the site should mirror an educational model that promotes cross-fertilisation. The tree symbolises the process of growth and transformation experienced by students as they develop their ideas through focused study at the University; the crown represents the successful attainment of a higher state, a realisation of perfection’.


Simon Periton

Title of work

The Alchemical Tree


University of Oxford


Niall McLaughlin Architects, Townshend Landscape Architects





Image credit

Golden Alchemical Tree Proposal, 2012. Adapted from Splendor Solis by Salomon Trismosin, 1582 (vellum), German School, (16th century) British Library, London. Image © Simon Periton