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Angela Palmer

Sublime Speed

Online Exhibition: August 2nd - August 30th 2021

In collaboration with Renault Sport F1, artist Angela Palmer deconstructed the world’s most successful F1 engine, the RS27, with the help of their pioneering engineers at their F1 laboratories in Paris. The V8 engine powered Fernando Alonso to the world championship in 2006 and won a further four consecutive titles with Sebastian Vettel from 2010 to 2013.


The artist was supplied with the engineers’ CAD drawings as well as unique engine parts from the V8, each numbered and inscribed; it is material normally guarded with the strictest secrecy to prevent industrial espionage. However a dramatic rule change from 2013 to 2014 saw the V8 replaced by the downsized turbocharged V6 equipped with newly developed energy recovery systems. It was this change that provided the opportunity for Renault to unlock its sensitive data to Palmer.


The artist visited Renault’s HQ in Viry-Chatillon in Paris where she found a scene more akin to a neuroscience laboratory than a factory. "I was shown a set of components, each the product of the most complex scientific skills, engineered to the last micron to perform at their optimum. The dramatic evolution in engineering has unintentionally bestowed these components with a by-product to their primary function – aesthetic beauty of form, alas rarely appreciated beyond their creators in this closely guarded world."


In her sculptures, Palmer shifts the focus from function and mechanism to the visual power of form and material. The artist used a variety of materials dictated by the sculptural language of the individual components and dramatically upscaled them - for example, she has recreated the V8 crankshaft into a seven-foot high ‘totem’ in American black walnut while one of the small cogs inspired a four-foot column in 150 million-years-old Portland stone from the Jurassic age. 


Drawn to the ‘intestinal’ qualities of the exhaust systems, she doubled their size, creating the right in walnut and the left in red-hot orange, reflecting its searing colour in action (the V8 exhaust reaches 1000 degrees Celsius within 5 seconds). To symbolise the fragility of man and machine in pursuit of the fastest speed in the world, Palmer also created two F1 helmets in crystal glass. One was cast from the helmet of F1 test driver and now Formula E team boss Susie Wolff (edition 1 is in the National Galleries of Scotland) and the second helmet from a current F1 driver and former world champion.


Two major sculptures in Palmer’s F1 collection were acquired by the Renault Art Collection, where they sit alongside works by Rauschenberg, Arman, Dubuffet and Vasarely - all artists who, like Palmer, collaborated on previous artistic projects with Renault. Several other of Palmer’s sculptures are in prominent collections worldwide.

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