Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
The National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington
Angela Palmer CV
2005 – 2007 MA Royal College of Art, London
2002 – 2005 Bachelor of Fine Art, The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford (Awarded Scholarship and Fitzgerald Prize)
Previous career in Journalism
1992-93: Editor, ELLE
1989-92: Magazine Editor, The Observer
1986-88: News Editor, The Observer
1984-86: Editor PHS, The Times
1982-84: The Daily Telegraph
1980: Journalist of the Year, Scotland
The artist is represented by The Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street, London W1S 2JT
The desire to ‘map’ is at the core of my work. I have spent several years taking the familiar and peeling back the outer layer to reveal the unfamiliar below. I’ve explored the human body, and in particular the brain, as well as the animal form, to expose the extraordinary matter lying unseen below the surface. By drawing or engraving details from MRI or CT scans onto multiple sheets of glass, layer by layer, I present the subjects as three-dimensional objects ‘floating’ in a glass chamber.
I’ve worked with the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford where I recreated a 2000-year-old Egyptian child mummy in glass by drawing details from over 2,500 CT scans, undertaken at the John Radcliffe Hosptial. The work is displayed in the museum next to the mummy itself, allowing visitors to see the form of the child without its bandages ever having been disturbed. I’ve collaborated with the Royal Veterinary College on a project to re-create the head of Eclipse, the most famous racehorse who ever lived; and with astrophysicists on an installation to re-create a chunk of space based on data from Nasa in its search for habitable planets.
My most recent project involves peeling back the layers on a very exciting piece of machinery: a Formula 1 engine. I embarked on this after a curious thought struck me: billions of people round the world drive cars, but few have any idea what lies under the bonnet. Today’s engines are hidden from view, concealed under a sheet of steel. If someone had asked me to identify a crankshaft, I would not have had a clue; nor a piston or a cylinder head. To familiarise myself with the components, I began with a Haynes 4-cylinder combustion build-your-own plastic engine, before progressing to my local scrapyard where I bought a Datsun Cherry engine. As I stripped it apart, I began to envisage the sculptural possibilities of each part, removed of their function and seen in the abstract. As the project progressed, I consulted every car expert I knew, including Adam Parr. He suggested I ditch the Datsun Cherry for something more ‘evolved’; in his view there was only one engine – the Renault V8 RS27, the most successful performance engine in the world; it powered Sebastian Vettel to four consecutive Formula One victories from 2010 to 2013. Adam introduced me to the then president of Renault Sport F1 who told me the timing was perfect: F1 was about to downsize to the V6, allowing him to unlock the company’s closely guarded data. My luck was in.
One of the key works in this exhibition is a life-size re-creation of the RS27 engine in glass, using the same method I employed to create the Egyptian child mummy, Eclipse et al. I developed this technique after seeing an exhibit in Oxford’s History of Science Museum, constructed by the Nobel Laureate Dorothy Hodgkin in the mid 1940s. She drew the electron density contour images of the penicillin molecule on horizontal sheets of Perspex.
I developed this concept by drawing or engraving details from MRI and CT scans onto multiple sheets of glass, thereby layer by layer recreating human and animal forms. The finished pieces, presented in three dimensions in a vertical plane, reveal the extraordinary inner anatomical architecture concealed beneath the surface. The image floats ethereally in its glass chamber, but can only be viewed from certain angles – from above and from the side the image vanishes and the viewer sees only a void.
I was also asked to ‘map’ in glass a felled rainforest tree by recording the dendochronology revealed on its slices, in the same way I would derive details from a CT scan. It was a request which led to my most challenging work to date, the realisation of the Ghost Forest (www.ghostforest.org). Instead of recreating a rainforest tree in glass, I thought it would be far more powerful and compelling to bring the real thing to Europe, complete with their roots. I determined to bring a group of fallen rainforest trees with their roots intact, as well as some logged ones, from a virgin logged forest and present them as a ‘ghost forest’ at the feet of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. After many trips and several months, I persuaded a team of Lebanese loggers in Ghana to give me ten mighty rainforest trees which we then lashed to ships for their journey from Africa to Tilbury Docks in East London. The Ghost Forest has been shown in Trafalgar Square in London; outside the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen; on the lawn of the Pitt Rivers and Museum of Natural History in Oxford; and it is now in the National Botanic Garden of Wales (www.gardenofwales.org.uk). The Ghost Forest can be seen on the dedicated website www.ghostforest.org