story and photos by Tony Clark
Billed as the Europe’s largest exhibition of motoring and motor racing art, this exhibition ran from the 31st October to the 5th November at the Mall Galleries in Central London. The exhibition formed part of the London Motoring Week with over 30 events including the closure of one of London’s major thoroughfares (Regent Street) for a static motor show, culminating in the veteran car run from London to Brighton.
I am not sure if the exhibition is the largest in terms of volume of art compared to Retromobile, but it is easily the biggest UK show. With the work of 20 current artists on display it certainly has a challenge for the title. In addition to the present artists, there was a collection on two walls of Curator’s Choice. This was older art by artists such as Bryan de Grineau, Gordon Crosby, Craig Warwick, Jim Bamber and Alan Fearnley. It was an interesting innovation to be able to compare the work of the leading artists of their time with modern counterparts. The current artists certainly seem to have better technical ability but both are strong in capturing the atmosphere.
It has to be remembered however that a lot of the early art was production art, working to press deadlines whereas most modern art is produced for collectors to much longer timescales.
Under the auspices of the Royal Automobile Club the event was sponsored by Petrico, Glassup and Stoski and Polygon Marketing. The joint organisers were Andrew Marriott of Pit Lane Productions and Rupert Whyte of Historic Car Art. They certainly gathered an excellent show by UK and overseas artists including two AFAS artists – Klaus Wagger and Gary Whinn. Some of the bigger names of UK art were missing but the display did not suffer as a result.
This is the third RAC exhibition and the venue changed this year from the slightly cramped two storey Royal Opera Arcade gallery to the wide open space of the main Mall Gallery, on the prestigious road leading from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace. The floor area is close to 2500 sq feet and linear wall space of 300 feet. The facility had the benefit of a small café area at one end where a rest could be taken during viewing of the exhibits. The paintings were arranged round the walls with sculptures placed on plinths in the central area. The gallery has space for expansion with the ability to have a central spine. The event commenced with a formal champagne opening on the first evening with around 130 invited guests.
With the work of 20 artists on display it is impossible to mention all the artists, so all I can do is highlight the works which personally appealed to me.
One artist that I cannot remember from the past is Jonathan (Joff) Carter who was displaying eight paintings of the motorcyclist Barry Sheene which had been commissioned by the family. These were to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Sheene winning the 500cc world championship in 1976/1977. The art is very dynamic mixed media studies which really fits the cut and thrust of motorcycle racing.
For dynamic art the artwork that really caught the eye was the work of Nick Rowe. This was the very latest computer generated illustrations; the work being completed in conjunction with the Williams Formula 1
racing team and is subject to their copyright. The output was displayed in two forms; printed on 3mm polished aluminium sheet with a clear acrylic veneer or onto transparency with back illuminated panels. The artwork is based the aerodynamic airflows and vortices passing around a F1 car at speed. The back illuminated panels were around 4 x 3 feet placed in a slightly darker corner of the gallery and visually really jumped out. But the pick of his art was a 6 x 4 highly polished aluminium panel entitled ‘Slipstream’ which featured the dynamic flow lines off the rear of the F1 car. The panels of the car showed stress type patterns whilst the spoilers of the car were mirror-like reflection of the polished aluminium.
For more traditional art, the art of Neil Collins was refreshing and his bright simple watercolours contrasted with the complications of the output of some artists. Again a new artist to me, but Neil has been around for some time and is a retired commercial artist, having worked all his life in the industry. He is now painting motoring scenes for fun in his retirement – well done!
John Ketchell is an established artist well represented by Historic Car Art and has showed his work at all recent major art shows. His large loose acrylic paintings are always a pleasure to view and this year’s selection was up to his highest standards. There were two which particularly caught my eye and my
favourite was the rear view of two battling Maserati 250fs. Another well established artist whose work I always like, and he is a keen supporter of such exhibitions, is Richard Wheatland. Besides his automotive art he has been making successful inroads into the aviation theme. He had a good selection of nine of his watercolours; I admired his painting of the display in the Collier Collection in Naples of the Vanwall and the Cooper Formula One cars titled ‘From front to back’.
This year’s exhibition was expanded to include European artists and one exhibitor was Jahn Janou from northern France. He is a frequent exhibitor on the art circuit such as Retromobile. Some of his work nears abstraction with the added bonus of bright colours and is extremely effective as a grouping. He certainly has a very distinctive style which is one I can identify with.
The AFAS artist Gary Whinn had six quality paintings on display, several with American themes including this Airstream caravan and old car. The other AFAS artist exhibiting was Klaus Wagger from Austria. He had four large acrylics on canvas of racing scenes. The pick of the collection was a Targa Florio painting entitled Porsche v Alfa.
In the centre of the gallery there was space for several bronzes on pedestals and four artists were showing their wares. By far the largest and impressive was the bronze of
Old No7 Bentley at Le Mans 1927. This was sculpted by Timothy Potts who has been producing several bronzes as official Bentley licensed products. This large piece was nearly 4ft long and weighed in at 350 lbs which gave the organisers some difficulty getting it into position. On a similar Bentley theme Argentian artist Esteban Serassio displayed several bronzes of different makes but one of the eye catching ones being a sculpture of the Blue Train Bentley. Esteban is represented in the UK by Historic Car Art. On a smaller scale Gary Smith showed some attractive
bronzes including a Bugatti competing in an early Targa Florio race.
If only there was enough space to allow a description of the work of all twenty artists. But it is hoped that this brief summary gives a flavour of this excellent exhibition and personally I look forward to future events.