With his huge sculpture of a hand rising from a tree stump, artist Simon O’Rourke gives new meaning to the term “palm tree.” The artwork, titled Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, stands 50 feet tall and morphs before your eyes. The sculpture starts out as a regular tree, but as you look up, it sheds its bark and transforms into the smooth skin of the arm, ending with the soft wrinkles in the palm and fingers. This shift from rough to smooth has a mythological feel to it, as if a giant is attempting to land on Earth.
The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy is carved into what was once Wales’ tallest tree. In fact, it was for this reason that O’Rourke was given the opportunity to make the sculpture in the first place. Natural Resource Wales planned to contract an artist to carve the tree, which had been injured by a storm and will be taken down.
“I was ecstatic at the thought of carving this colossus and making a tribute for such a well-known landmark,” says O’Rourke. “I began my study and discovered that the region of woods where the tree was located was known as the Giants of Vyrnwy. This got me thinking, and I came up with the idea of a big hand to represent the giants and the tree’s final attempt to grab for the sky!”
The correct equipment and a strong work ethic were necessary to create such an outstanding sculpture. “A scaffold was needed to make it safe to work on,” the artist recalls, “and the terrain was so rough that erecting the scaffold took two days.” “It was then six days of rigorous work with chainsaws and grinders.” Because the tree wasn’t wide enough to make the entire hand, I had to add two pieces for the thumb and little finger.” O’Rourke finished the sculpture by coating it with tung oil, a natural plant-based oil that is environmentally friendly.
Aside from being a stunning piece of art, the procedure served as a useful reminder for O’Rourke. “Working on the hand sculpture was a lot of fun because it reminded me how little we are in comparison to some of the other living species on our planet,” he adds. “Overall, it was an eye-opening experience!”
Artist Simon O’Rourke carved a gigantic hand rising from a tree stump using a chainsaw.
The piece’s creation was a long and arduous process. Over the course of six days, O’Rourke labored in a scaffold and sculpted the hand.
The artwork is presently located near Lake Vyrnwy, a reservoir in Powys, Wales, and is open to the public.