Dan Rawlings – Future Returns


Dan Rawlings' Future Returns, showing a reclaimed oil tanker with a design of plasma cut foliage cut from its structure Dan Rawlings' Future Returns, showing a reclaimed oil tanker with a design of plasma cut foliage cut from its structure, and sitting on a mound of earth

Artist Dan Rawlings wearing welding gear


19 June to 25 September 2021

(To continue in the Gallery Courtyard into 2022)


In one of our most ambitious exhibitions to date, sculptor Dan Rawlings presents a powerful installation that explores our exploitation of nature’s resources and nature’s ability to respond. It invites us to examine our own part in commercialisation and its impact on our natural environment.

Future Returns transports us to a future of industrial relics in a state of decomposition. It imagines a time when flora has reclaimed the artefacts of our intervention in the environment, forming monuments that honour transformation, hope and the inevitability of change.

The installation is inspired by heavy industry and our complex relationship with industrial production and fossil fuels in the modern age. A reclaimed oil tanker truck sits in the 19th century church building, transformed by the artist’s pioneering, freehand plasma cutter drawing of intricate foliage motifs. It dominates the space, surrounded by mounds of earth and dark, mirrored ‘pools’, which reflect the omnipresence of oil in our lives.

Future Returns invites us to examine our own part in commercialisation and the resulting changes to our natural environment. Rawlings believes it is easy to demonise industry but we must acknowledge that it has allowed life as we know it to bloom. It is our ability to design, create and produce that has put towns like Scunthorpe on the global map.

He also believes oil companies have much to answer for, from the state of our environment to mistrust of science.

Future Returns has been commissioned to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of 20-21 Visual Arts Centre and produced in partnership with Dan Rawlings and Paul Barkworth Events.

Note: This installation has now been moved into the Gallery Courtyard. The public are not currently allowed into the Courtyard, but the installation is viewable from a number of vantage points inside and outside the gallery.

About Dan Rawlings

Contemporary British sculptor Dan Rawlings was born in Essex in 1979. He currently lives and works in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

A self-taught artist, Rawlings’ early interest in graffiti and street art led him to create multi-layered stencils and it is from this stencil cutting technique that his trademark style emerged. When a welder in the studio next door loaned him a plasma cutter he became obsessed with its possibilities. From these beginnings he developed his experimental style of plasma cutter ‘drawing’, creating artworks from reclaimed metal forms, including road signs, cars, planes and grain silos.

Rawlings is fascinated by industry, taking inspiration from nature’s resilience – plants growing through the concrete of abandoned buildings, a tree thriving from within old machinery. His work explores new ways of pushing boundaries in creating ‘relics of an alternative future’ which are at once poetic, optimistic, challenging and humorous.

Dan Rawlings has shown work in Paris, London, Berlin and Los Angeles, and was awarded a large-scale commission by London’s 2018 Moniker Art Fair, the largest urban art fair in the world, as well as Glastonbury Festival in 2019. Street-art museum Urban Nation commissioned a large-scale aeroplane installation, Short-Haul, from Rawlings for their 2019 Biennale in Berlin.

Rawlings has 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. In March 2020 Rawling’s work was included alongside some of the biggest names in street art in a group show in partnership with The Big Issue and OurTypes at the Jealous Gallery East, London.


(Top) Portrait of Dan Rawlings by Nika Kramer. (Bottom) Image of Future Returns in progress by KNOW Film.