ART WITHIN SURFACES
The Curious Link Between a Shark and a Formula One Car After working in the Formula One world, artist Alastair Gibson began creating carbon-fibre sculptures of marine specimens that are painted using a very complex process directly in the Mercedes AMG Petronas racing team’s factory.
t first glance, marine fauna and Formula One single-seaters
decision to pursue his passion and become a full-time sculptor. “I
do not seem to have much in common. Yet, Alastair Gibson, a
started by toying with discarded carbon-fibre fragments and car pieces
creator of special carbon fibre sculptures, claims there actually
in the downtime before and after the racing season, because that was
are many similarities: “For example, both Formula One cars and sharks
all I had on hand at the time. I realised that it was possible to create
have well-defined centre lines and are strikingly symmetrical. They are
new, beautiful objects through these scraps, but I did not expect that
magnificent creatures that move sinuously through space – cars are
someone would want to buy them!” he jokingly recounts.
aerodynamic and sharks are hydrodynamic. This is why I decided to use
Making his sculptures requires a lot of effort, time, and practice. He
majestic sea animals as subjects for my works.”
starts by carving a 1:1 scale model of his work by hand in balsa wood.
Combining artistic inspiration, attention to details, interest in colour,
Then, he uses CAD software to decide on the positioning of details such
and engineering skills, Alastair Gibson creates carbon fibre sculptures
as eyes, gills, or fins.
incorporating parts of Formula One cars, each with a production
Afterwards, he places thin sheets of carbon fibre precisely into moulds,
number that refers to specific vehicles or races. In order to bring his
whose number depends on the type of sculpture being made. “This is a
sculptures to life, he has them painted with Spies Hecker products, the
particularly tricky phase, because in some of my sculptures the carbon
Axalta Coating Systems brand dedicated to developing practical coating
fibre weave is visible through the clear coating. Therefore, it is essential
systems for car bodies.
to place the material correctly and make sure that there is nothing
Originally from South Africa, the sculptor began his career in motor
between the mould and the carbon fibre layer.”
sports. After working as a mechanic and engineer in some minor
The carbon fibre-covered moulds are then subjected to a debulking
racing classes for seven years, he made his Formula One debut as the
process in a pressurised environment and placed in an autoclave to
chief mechanic of the Benetton team. In his fifteen years in the top
create a perfect final sculpture section.
motorsport championship, he also served as chief race mechanic for the
Once assembled, the works of art are taken to the Mercedes AMG
BAR and Honda Grand Prix teams.
Petronas body shop, where they are painted with Spies Hecker
However, being interested in art as well, in 2008 Gibson made the
products, the same coatings also used by the team.
© Alastair Gibson
Sharks are one of sculptor Alastair Gibson’s favourite subjects.
N. 75 - MAY/JUNE 2022 - international PAINT&COATING magazine
Aero Manta, a metre-long sculpture that took 25 hours to coat.