Artist Dan Rawlings delicately hand-cuts an oil tanker to take over a church in Scunthorpe

British artist Dan Rawlings has taken over a former 19th-century church in Scunthorpe by installing a reclaimed oil tanker inside the space, one that he's transformed with his famous freehand drawings of intricate foliage motifs, delicately cut into the giant vehicle's steel body.

Entitle Future Returns, the massive vehicle sits on top of nine tons of earth to create what Rawlings says is "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". Launching tomorrow at the Visual Arts Centre, housed in the former St. John's Church building in Church Square, the unique artwork is Rawlings most ambitious to date. It's inspired by North Lincolnshire's past and present industry and our complex relationship with industrial production and fossil fuels.

The reclaimed vehicle 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, directing our attention to spilt oil pools. It hopes to "explore our manipulation and commercialisation of nature's resources and nature's ability to respond," as the Gallery puts it.

A self-taught artist, this is typical of Rawlings' practice. Recognised for his experimental style of drawing with a plasma cutter into large-scale metal forms, he also works with cars, planes, grain silos and road signs. "The plants in the sculptures are an acknowledgement that heavy industry is the root of so much in our lives," he says. "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."

He adds: "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."

Future Returns by Dan Rawlings will take place at 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire from 19 June until 25 September 2021. For up-to-date visiting times and booking information, go to


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