Menu Menu

Fuel tankers and trucks transformed into intricate steel forest works

Conceptual artist Dan Rawlings takes once-pollutant vessels like trucks, vans, and planes and transforms them into hollow 3D sculptures with a message about the power of nature.

Some conceptual artists are criticised for how little physical ‘work’ goes into their pieces. Dan Rawlings isn’t one of those types.

Based in Gloucestershire, England, each of Rawlings’ installations is a labour of love.

Renowned for his intricate carvings into scrap metal and recycled tools, his latest and most ambitious collection ‘Future Returns’ is really putting him on the map.

The self-taught artist has taken up to four months at a time transforming retired vehicles like trucks, vans, and planes from once pollutant vessels into incredible 3D installations – each with a superseding message about humanity being ‘reclaimed’ by nature.

Dan Rawlings - Future Returns
Credit: Mark Bickerdike

Initially painting his designs onto the exterior of these vehicles, Rawlings then carves the hollow structure using a plasma cutter before filing down the sharp edges by hand. ‘It’s very labour intensive. But that’s the bit I really enjoy,’ he says.

The centre piece of his collection is a 10.5 metre tanker which had been 12 years out of service until he brought it. Using the methods described, he etched tree formations into both the cab and trailer.

Sat atop a mound of earth and surrounded by barrels, the interior floor has been fitted with dark mirror-like pools resembling spilt oil, and lights which highlight Rawlings’ handy work.

Exploring our ‘manipulation and commercialisation of nature’s resources,’ as the artist fittingly puts it, he hopes his work will inspire people to consider just how detrimental fossil fuel industries are to our planet.

‘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,’ he states. Future Returns exists to remind us all.

Surrounded by illuminated dust and dry ice, his exhibits really look the part, encapsulating the damage being inflicted by our ceaseless emissions and how ‘we ignore it in favour of profit.’

Rawlings’ work does, however, provide a seed of hope by highlighting the undeniable resilience of mother nature and its ‘weird force that people underestimate.’ Ultimately, he believes it will reclaim all in the end.

‘The last year or so has been an amazing example of that,’ Rawlings 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.’

Short Haul by Dan Rawlings
Credit: Mark Bickerdike

On display at the 20-21 Arts Centre in Scunthorpe until late September, Rawlings’ forest style signature can be found on old cars and vans, a particularly eye-catching exhibit showing a burnt out plane engulfed in dry ice and light, and even a road sign.

The way the artist makes use of angles and shadows is equally impressive as the hundreds of hours spent with cutter in hand, and ultimately his message is one we must heed.

‘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.’


Thred Newsletter!

Sign up to our planet-positive newsletter