June 22, 2021 11.23 am

Oil tanker transformed into steel forest in Scunthorpe exhibition

Where industry meets nature

British contemporary artist and sculptor Dan Rawlings brought an oil truck to life for a powerful sculpture exhibition in Scunthorpe.

The Future Returns exhibition is currently at the 20-21 Visual Arts Centre on Church Square in Scunthorpe.

The event began on June 19 and will run until September 25, 2021. It is open Tuesday to Saturday between 10am and 4pm at the arts centre, which is housed in the former St John’s Church building.

The exhibition is described as Dan’s most ambitious artwork to date and is free to enter, but timed tickets must be booked online in advance here.

Artist Dan Rawlings said “the plants in the sculptures are an acknowledgement that heavy industry is the root of so much in our lives”. | Photo: Mark Bickerdike

The art installation has taken over the venue’s 19th-century church gallery space with the sculpture in the form of a reclaimed DAF oil tanker, which measures 10.54m in length, 3.6m in height, and is 2.59m wide.

It forms a commanding island, internally lit and surrounded by mounds of earth, oil barrels and dark mirror-like pools that reflect the church’s vaulted roof.

The steel body is transformed by Dan’s freehand drawing of intricate foliage motifs and brought to life using a plasma cutter.

The art installation has taken over the venue’s 19th-century church gallery space. | Photo: Mark Bickerdike

British contemporary artist and sculptor Dan Rawlings brought an oil truck to life. | Photo: Mark Bickerdike

The gallery is currently filled with 16 tons of earth to create an imagined, distant-future ‘truck in the wilderness’ landscape, creating a vision of a world where man’s impact is being slowly reclaimed by nature.

It is a specially commissioned show by 20-21 Visual Arts Centre celebrates its 20th anniversary.

The exhibition is described as Dan’s most ambitious artwork to date. | Photo: Mark Bickerdike

Dan was born in Essex and is a Stroud-based contemporary British sculptor. He was awarded a large-scale commission by London’s 2018 Moniker Art Fair, as well as having a permanent installation in the UNESCO Völklingen Ironworks, as part of the World Heritage Site’s 2019 Urban Art Biennale. His most recent solo show, at Galerie Openspace in Paris, also opened in 2019.

He said: “The plants in the sculptures are an acknowledgement that heavy industry is the root of so much in our lives. Most of what we know and rely on grows out of it, yet so much of it remains unseen.

“Despite their awe-inspiring scale, and the many lives dedicated to working in them, many people have never seen steelworks, factories or coal yards, and do not consider their existence – and yet our whole way of life stems from them. I like to bring people’s attention to that, to make visible that truth.

“The foliage also draws attention to nature’s resilience and ability to find a way to thrive. Whatever we take from nature, it always finds a way to take it back.”

The Future Returns exhibition will run until September 25, 2021. | Photo: Mark Bickerdike

Dominic Mason, Exhibitions Manager, 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, said: “This is 20-21’s biggest ever commission and we cannot wait to welcome visitors to this unique and thought-provoking exhibition. I knew when Dan Rawlings asked me if we could fit at least nine tons of soil into the main gallery space, that something very special was going to be created!

“We’re lucky to have the cathedral of space at 20-21 to be able to exhibit such large-scale installations of this nature and we are proud to exhibit this work as part of our 20th anniversary year in Scunthorpe.”

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