Tankers and Transit vans sculpted into steel forests

By Ian Youngs
Entertainment & arts reporter

image sourceMark Bickerdike

Artist Dan Rawlings has transformed a petrol tanker from a functional vehicle carrying fossil fuels into a work of intricate industrial beauty, with a message about the power of nature.

image sourceMark Bickerdike

Rawlings spent four months carving out the tank to leave only a steel skeleton of tree trunks, branches and brambles, turning this once-polluting vessel into a 3D forest sculpture.

There is "definitely an environmental message", the artist says. His designs are meant to represent nature reclaiming man-made objects.

"A lot of my work exists in this weird future where there are relics of industry being overtaken." Rawlings is now exhibiting the tanker at the 20-21 arts centre, which is in a former church in Scunthorpe, the North Lincolnshire steel town.

image sourceMark Bickerdike

Rawlings, who is based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, says he wants to send a message about how people don't think of the future when using natural resources. "We ignore it in favour of profit," he says.

The 10.5m (34.5ft) tanker, which had gone out of service before he bought it, is one example, he says. "I think it's 12 years old, but it's obsolete. No companies would use it because it looks too old, even though it was perfectly functional. It's ridiculous.

"We've more than got the technology and the scientific ability to think about the future and to do things in a way that will stop pointlessly destroying everything."

image sourceDan Rawlings
image captionRawlings has used the same techniques on a Transit van

He also wants people to think about how nature is "this weird force that I think people underestimate".

"The last year or so has been an amazing example of that," he says. "The amount of businesses that have been shut for a year, and then you go and look at their car parks and everything's so overgrown. You can't tell what's temporarily closed and what's been derelict for 10 years."

image sourceNika Kramer
image captionHe has also carved out a design in the body of a light aircraft

Rawlings has made similar installations out of old cars, vans, planes and even road signs.

He first paints on the designs with a brush, then carves out the unwanted parts with a plasma cutter. "Then I'm just filing and cutting by hand and panel beating and that kind of thing.

"It's very labour intensive. But that's the bit I really enjoy."

image sourceDan Rawlings

His current installation, titled Future Returns, is on show at the 20-21 arts centre in Scunthorpe until 25 September.

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