Emerging Artist Tania Kovats Wins Darwin200 Canopy Commission

By Narelle Doe | 16 June 2008
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A colour drawing of a tree stretching over a ceiling.

A sketch of TREE. Courtesy Tania Kovats.

In a surprise coup, a lesser-known artist has beaten competition including Turner Prize winners to be asked to create a permanent artwork for the Natural History Museum in London.

Tania Kovats’ TREE proposal was chosen from the other nine shortlisted entries in the Darwin’s Canopy project. Work will start immediately, to be unveiled on February 12 2009, exactly 200 years after Darwin was born.

TREE will involve a cross-section of an entire 200-year-old oak tree cut lengthways, including the roots, trunk and branches and inserted into the ceiling of the mezzanine gallery, using a process similar to veneering. At more than 17 metres long, it will become one of the largest specimens at the museum.

A photograph of a decorated ceiling with one section left blank.

Looking straight upwards - this is where Tania's art commission will be revealed at the Natural History Museum in 2009 - Darwin's Canopy. © NHM

TREE is inspired by Charles Darwin´s sketch of the branching tree to represent evolution in his Transmutation Notebook. TREE is a slice through a vast living organism, symbolising how we organise and disseminate our thinking, connectivity and how the scientific gaze can penetrate living things.

“TREE came out of my time in South America, where Darwin has been an inspiring travelling companion,” said Tania. “I am delighted to be able to make a tribute to this unique individual, in such a wonderful institution."

"When I visited Downe House (Darwin’s home) last autumn it left me with an understanding of Darwin’s relationship with the British Isles and his social and scientific community, which has balanced my understanding of his travelling.”

The judges all agreed that Tania’s response to this challenge was the most appropriate. Bob Bloomfield, project leader, said: “It is considerate to the Grade I listed building and explores one of Darwin’s core ideas, that all living things share a common evolutionary origin.”

Darwin’s Canopy, showing all the proposals, is the first event in a nationwide programme called Darwin200, celebrating Darwin’s ideas and their impact around his two hundredth birthday.

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