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Angela Palmer

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, and the results of this latest collaboration can be seen in my solo show ‘Adrenalin’ at the Fine Art Society in New Bond Street from November 19 to December 23.


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.


Courtesy of the artist’s website.