~~ British artist Angela Palmer’s sculptures will be shown alongside her inspiration - the world’s greatest F1 engine Angela Palmer’s dramatically upscaled Red Hot Orange Exhaust, based on Sebastian Vettel’s V8 engine
The world’s most successful Formula 1 engine, the RS27, which powered Sebastian Vettel to four consecutive F1 world titles, is to be shown alongside the sculpture it inspired in an exhibition at the international art fair, Art Monaco 15, from July 9 – 12. British artist Angela Palmer was given unprecedented access to the highly secretive world of Formula 1 to realise this extraordinary body of work derived from the iconic V8 engine. In collaboration with Renault Sport F1, the artist deconstructed the RS27 engine which famously powered Vettel to four F1 championships from 2010 to 2013. Renault designs and builds F1 engines for Infiniti Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso in the FIA Formula One World Championship. Palmer dramatically upscaled individual components of the V8, using a variety of materials, from walnut to Jurassic age Portland stone and bronze.
For the project, she was supplied with the engineers’ CAD drawings as well as unique engine parts from the V8, material normally guarded with the strictest secrecy to prevent industrial espionage. However in a dramatic rule change introduced last year, the V8 was replaced by the downsized turbocharged V6 Power Units equipped with newly developed energy recovery systems. It was this change that provided the unique opportunity for Renault to unlock its sensitive data to Palmer.
Palmer’s interest in engines began with the realisation that over 2 billion people in the world drive cars, yet few have any idea what lies under the bonnet: “How many of us know what a crankshaft looks like, never mind its function? I wanted to peel back that mysterious layer and reveal the astonishing piece of engineering which creates this mechanical ‘beating heart’ that’s so close to all of us, often all day, every day,” said Palmer. “Through the sculptures, I wanted to shift the focus from function and mechanism to the visual power of form and material.” She began her research by ordering a plastic build-your-own engine online. From there she bought a Datsun Cherry engine from her local scrapyard in Oxford and spent weeks taking it apart to examine the sculptural potential for each part. An upscaled F1 V8 cog in polished bronze When introduced to the President of Renault Sport F1 some months later, Palmer was given the opportunity to work on the V8, the most advanced internal combustion engine in the world, at their headquarters in Viry-Chatillon in Paris. Spending a day in the laboratories of the Renault Sport F1 team was, she said, “more akin to a scene from a neuroscience laboratory than a factory.” Palmer was able to observe the astonishing precision behind the construction of the engines, “each piece is a work of engineering genius, numbered and inscribed, engineered down to the last micron.”
The artist used a variety of materials dictated by the sculptural language of the individual components - for example, she has recreated the V8 crankshaft as a ’totem’ in American black walnut over 2m high, while one of the small pinions inspired a 2m column cut from a block of 150 million-year-old Portland stone (the stone used to build St Paul’s Cathedral). Drawn to the ’intestinal’ qualities of the V8’s exhaust systems, she doubled their size, creating the right in walnut and the left in red hot orange resin, reflecting its colour in action (the V8 exhaust reaches 1000 degrees celsius within 5 seconds).
Ann Hindry, the curator of Renault’s renowned art collection said the work created by the artist is “so much related to what Renault has always searched for in its long relationship with art: a sharing of knowledge and creativity.” During the project, Palmer also became fascinated by the world’s F1 circuit tracks. “Seen in the abstract, they are redolent of Eastern calligraphy.” She has recreated a collection of F1 tracks, including Monaco, Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps, Japan’s Suzuka and Singapore in wall mounted neon. Monaco circuit, neon mounted on aluminium In addition, she borrowed a crash helmet worn by an F1 driver and has cast it in delicate lead crystal glass, reminding us of the “ever-present fragility faced by drivers in the fastest motor sport in the world." Crystal helmet (left) cast from one worn by F1 driver and its brass mould (right) Angela Palmer is a sculptor and installation artist. Born in Scotland and based in Oxford, she studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford and the Royal College of Art in London.
A central theme in her work is the desire to ’map’ and she has re-interpreted the human and animal form through her use of CT and MRI scans; she created her brain as a three-dimensional drawing in a glass chamber by engraving details of MRI slices on multiple glass sheets. It is now in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, and will tour over the next two years as part of a tri-national exhibition of international artists’ self portraits entitled ‘From Rembrandt to the Selfie’, at the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe; the Museé des Beaux-Arts in Lyon; and the NPG in Edinburgh. Palmer has enjoyed the opportunity to work with scientists in every conceivable discipline, from radiologists and botanists, to engineers, astrophysicists, veterinary scientists and paediatric dentists specialising in Egyptian child mummies.
The artist’s glass sculpture of an Egyptian child mummy is on permanent display alongside the actual mummy in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Her installation ‘Searching for Goldilocks’, which represents NASA’s search for habitable planets, is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington.