Mineral Mountain

Posted on: 25 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

The Natural History Museum and The Royal British Society of Sculptors present Diane Maclean: Sculpture and Works on Paper.

The Natural History Museum and The Royal British Society of Sculptors present Diane Maclean: Sculpture and Works on Paper.

A six-metre-high stainless steel ‘mountain’ will rise from the west lawn at the Natural History Museum this summer. The Museum and The Royal British Society of Sculptors have commissioned environmental artist Diane Maclean to create an outdoor sculpture that relates to the Museum’s scientific research. A series of photographic images will also be on display inside the building.

The exhibition takes place between 5th May and 4th September 2005. “I worked with seven Natural History Museum scientists to develop this exhibition,” said artist Diane Maclean. “I was fascinated by the beautiful and unusual molecular structure of the minerals they are researching. The collections inspired me to create a sculpture that would truly reflect the structure of the Earth.”

Eighteen metres long and composed of eleven separate vertical shafts, the piece known as Mountain rises six metres high with a ‘canyon’ at the centre that visitors can wander through. Museum scientists helped Diane understand the mineral, molecular and crystal structure of the Earth, and the sculpture’s highly reflective angular steel facets are reminiscent of the surfaces of cut gemstones and natural crystals.

Peepholes in Mountain will reveal highly magnified images of crystals such as aerinite and those found in a newly discovered Martian meteorite. An audio installation within the canyon space will echo through the sculpture with sound of geological processes that occur deep within the Earth.

“Collaborating with Diane was a wonderful opportunity for the Natural History Museum to show its mineralogy collections in an exciting new way,” said Dr Gordon Cressey, Head of Mineral Sciences at the Natural History Museum. “Our scientists have been able to make discoveries using images of mineral specimens taken through high-powered microscopes. Diane has used the same images as a basis of her sculpture, which reveals the beautiful aesthetic qualities of the mineral structures.”

Since she began to make sculpture in the 1980s, the themes for Diane Maclean’s work have related to the natural environment. She enjoys the challenge of new materials and technology, which she employs through her response to natural phenomena. The tensions and connections between industrial or technological materials and the natural world provide a theme for much of her work.

Diane Maclean lives and works in St Albans. Throughout the 1970s she had many portrait commissions in Europe, Ameerica and Canada. Her sculptures are in public collections in Britain such as the Highlands of Scotland (Legend, 1998), Milton Keynes (Wings, 2000) and more recently the University of Surrey (Spine, 2004). She also exhibited in Lithuania, Sweden, Germany, Estonia, Japan, Canada and Finland, where she has recently been Visiting lecturer in Environmental Art at the Helsinki Fine Art Academy. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculptors in 1998.

This exhibition forms the final part of a three-year collaboration between the Natural History Museum and The Royal British Society of Sculptors. Outdoor sculptures by Peter Randall-Page and Tessa Campbell Fraser have been enjoyed by visitors to the museum over the past two years. The Natural History museum has exhibited work by various artists, and through its diverse and innovative arts programme it aims to promote understanding and enjoyment of the natural world, communicating the Museum's science through various media.

Admission is free to the Natural History Museum, which is open from 10am to 5.50pm Monday to Saturday, and 11am to 5.50pm on Sunday.

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