Douglas White, Born 1977, UK
Black Palm, 2011
The British-born artist Douglas White is known for working with discarded or overlooked natural or manmade materials. His "Black Palm" sculptures are a good example. They were inspired by a visit to a rain forest in Central America.
"The idea for the work developed while I was working on a residency in Belize in the rain forest," White recalls. "There, when a palm tree has a disease, they burn it. You'll be wandering through the forest, and there will be these black apparitions within the rain forest. Simultaneously to seeing that, I was driving around the country, and on the main roads there are blown-out truck tires everywhere. That was the genesis of the project."
This first palm sculpture was created in the Belize jungle. Later versions of the sculpture were made outside Belize, although White first collected and shipped the raw material (burned vehicle tires) from the island.
Using discarded rubber tires to represent once-healthy palm trees is White's comment on colonialism and its assault on the exotic and the beautiful: how Europeans drawn to the allure of the tropical landscape simultaneously sapped it of its life and beauty by extracting rubber from trees and turning rubber into a global industry.
White, who was educated at Oxford University and the Royal College of Art, lives and works in London. He traces his artistic practice back to his discovery, at the age of seven, of a twisted twig. "It looked just like a drowning man clinging to a log, his mouth gaping in a cry. I doubt anyone else would see this in it." White's propensity to see forms in nature or in objects found in his everyday environment lies at the heart of his sculptural practice.