The first week in November tends to be a busy one for The Royal Automobile Club with London Motor Week, the Regent Street Car Show and the London To Brighton Veteran Car Run rounding off the week on the Sunday.
This year London Motor Week got under way on Monday 1st November with various events being held at the Pall Mall Clubhouse, including the Art of Motoring exhibition which is organised and curated by Andrew Marriott of Pitlane Productions and Rupert Whyte of Historic Car Art.
2021 is the seventh year that the Art of Motoring exhibition has taken place, although last year’s exhibition had to be held virtually thanks to COVID restrictions, so it was a welcome return to a physical event this year which brought together the works of 16 well-known motoring artists and sculptors that included former Swedish Formula One and Le Mans winner Stefan Johansson who made his artwork debut at last year’s virtual exhibition, having taken up painting following the death of his friend Elio de Angelis, who was tragically killed in a testing accident at Paul Ricard in 1986.
Stefen has always had a strong interest in Art and Design and today he produces a variety of works in his Santa Monica studio in Los Angeles, including some abstracts that evoke different corners at famous racetracks around the world and portraits of iconic racers over-painted with a narrative. I had the great pleasure to meet and chat with Stefan at a preview evening on the first day of this year’s exhibition to learn more about his works of art.
There were many different subjects, styles and choice of materials on display this year, including traditional oil and water colour paints to 3D printing. And for the first time QR codes were displayed under each picture so visitors to the exhibition could download information about each artist and their works.
Other artists exhibiting at this year’s Art of Motoring exhibition included Tim Layzell, Barry Rowe, John Ketchell, Paul Dove, Roy Putt, water colourist Neil Collins, the painting vicar Adam Gompertz , Martin Tomlinson, Simon Britnell and Ella Freire. Sculptors Johnny Ambrose and Robin Bark were also exhibiting their works.
Newcomers included Ian Bilbey, Brian James and Paul Howse, who until recently worked on the McLaren design team for their road cars.
I chatted with Simon Britnell about his wonderful paintings, in particular the BMW M1 and Porsche 928, photographed here.
Simon first became a freelance artist in the 1980s, not painting cars initially but predominantly landscapes, illustrations for publishing and pet portrait commissions. He soon started to diversify however, and as the game industry began to take off Simon bought himself an early home computer and taught himself the skills needed to produce digital images. He developed the technical knowledge required to produce 3D game environments working on many high-profile game franchises.
Evolving his skills still further, Simon moved into 3D modelling and texture creation for film visual effects in 2008. He gained credits on the films Narnia, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Harry Potter – The Deathly Hallows Part 1, Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time, Maleficent, Guardians of the Galaxy and Oscar winners for Best Visual Effects – Hugo and Jungle Book.
With his children now grown up, Simon has returned to conventional art and enjoys the pleasure of working “analogue” with paint and canvas, and he says:
“You will see I am particularly drawn to the stylish designs of the 1970s. For me, this era celebrates iconic design with evocative classic vehicles and vibrant motorsport.”
I’ve known Jonny Ambrose for a few years now and have seen his sculptures evolve into the fabulous pieces of art that were on display at this year’s exhibition, none more striking than the ‘Monster 917’ that was on display in the Club Room at the RAC.
This latest digitally designed work is a 2.5m long, 1.03m wide and 47cm tall and is a half scale Porsche 917 in tubular carbon fibre and aluminium, connected by custom 3d printed ‘organic’ joints. The stylised polygonal design with detailed representative chassis, creates a bold 3d maze of interweaving lines that is made up of around 1000 different components and is priced at £37,900.
Jonny has been creating his elegant, contemporary automobile sculptures since 1994, inspired by aerodynamic forms, imagined airflow and intriguing technical details, with Classic & Sportscar commenting:
“His works celebrate automotive artistry with graceful abstraction”.
Jonny combines traditional steam-bent wood craftsmanship with digital design processes, with wood playing an important part within a rich palette of complementary materials, polished metals, carbon fibre and bespoke 3d design printed elements. His sculptures are not only sleek and beautiful but also draw the viewer closer to the point of studying the work, rewarded by the visual depth of the forms, voids and views through each work. As Jonny says:
“I love to find new ways to create fascination for the viewer. Moving around and looking through a 3d sculpture offers an ever changing composition of shapes, reflections and shadows to decipher.
“Deciphering a car form, understanding those key lines and proportions from the car designer’s mind, then interpreting that into a new artform that commands interest, is what motivates my art process.
“I prefer to push myself, exploring new aesthetics, themes and materials, not repeat over and over.”
His new ‘Skeletal Series’ works, with their inner chassis framework ‘maze’, provide a constant puzzle of parallaxing lines for the viewer.
Having exhibited at the Royal Automobile Club since 2017, Jonny has created works for international collector clients worldwide and works with leading automotive brands, often donating sale proceeds to charity. Next year he plans to create a large F1 sculpture for Sir Jackie Stewart’s charity that will be auctioned in aid of Race Against Dementia.
This year is also the first time all the works that were on display at the Art of Motoring exhibition can be viewed and purchased by visiting the dedicated website: www.theartofmotoring.co.uk
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of The Royal Automobile Club/Mark Lewis Photography and by Simon Burrell