story by Tony Clark
There were several changes for this year’s show, but still organised by the Royal Automobile Club. The biggest change was that the exhibition was presented within the opulent buildings of the Club on Pall Mall in London, and not at an external gallery like the previous three exhibitions. The art show is part of the London Motoring Week culminating in the London to Brighton run for veteran cars on the Sunday. The exhibition was curated and founded by Andrew Marriott, staged by the Royal Automobile Club, featuring many artists represented by Historic Car Art.
The exhibition was open from the Tuesday until the Saturday evening. Unfortunately the Club is a members’ club and not open to ‘walk in’ for the general public. However during Motoring Week there are many visitors from home and overseas. There are also many non-motoring functions being held on the premises, so it ensured a good number of visitors. The organisers claim that the majority of paintings in previous exhibitions, in galleries outside the Club House, were bought by RAC Club members so the number of sales should not be reduced.
The main exhibition was held in two rooms on the first floor of the building close to the entrance to one of the large dining rooms and the library. The art was displayed on the walls and on purpose built staging in the centre of the rooms. This was fine for the paintings and framed material, but the sculptures were relegated to window sills, fireplace mantels and small tables. I do feel happier when such works are on their own plinths.
What was the highlight of this year’s show? To me it was the chance to see original work of Alfredo De La Maria at close quarters. He had six large paintings in the exhibition and he was present at the preview on the Tuesday evening. One is very familiar with giclee prints of his paintings but to see such a grouping was spectacular. The original art has so much more life and sparkle than the prints plus one is very much more aware of the background detail.
Aston Martin at Le Mans 1959 – Oil on canvas
If one has highlights I suppose there are disappointments, and to me it was the lack of Veteran Car art. After all, many of the viewers would be in London for the veteran car run so I felt the artists were missing a captive audience. In the past at least one of the exhibitions had been themed but the RAC Club’s co-ordinator Jane Holmes told me that the artists had been given a free choice. This resulted in the majority of works being nostalgia car themes from the 1930’s to 1960’s.
So what of the artists? I have already mentioned Alfredo De La Maria so it is perhaps best to mention the other 13 artists in alphabetical order.
Speedform 01 – Oak, carbon fibre sheet and rods
I cannot remember seeing the work of Jonny Ambrose before and I felt it was very welcome, standing out from the nostalgia art. Jonny creates motoring abstract sculptures from wood carbon fibre and metals, essentially two dimensional but with a few inches relief which plays with shadow from the lighting.
Jaguar XJR9 - Digital drawing on aluminium
Andrew Barber was again a new name and creates his art by staggering digital images; this gives a good speed impression and leads into abstraction. The strong colour work is printed onto aluminium which results in high contrast.
Jaguar XK120 ‘Bubble’ - Aluminium sculpture
Robin Bark is known for his limited edition aluminium sculptures of cars, particularly Jaguar. The models are sand cast in solid aluminium before being polished and hand worked into a highly reflective surface. He had 8 exhibits on show. These sculptures are very tactile and I particularly wanted to handle the XK120 ‘Bubble’ Jaguar.
Alfa Romeo Montreal – Oil on canvas
Simon Britnell again is another newer name and he had 5 large oil paintings of Citroen, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa and Maserati cars featuring a side profile of the car with a front view of the car as background. The front view was very soft and partially disguised by lines, paint drips and spills.
Veteran cars ‘Brighton Rocks’ - Watercolour
Neil Collins is well known for his excellent loose watercolours of racing scenes and Land Speed record breakers. Congratulations to Neil for the only painting showing veteran cars. This was a loose watercolour with cars crossing Westminster Bridge on their way to Brighton titled ‘Brighton Rocks’.
Full Throttle at Brooklands – Acrylic on canvas
Paul Dove is an excellent artist who paints larger acrylic works; he deserves greater recognition. He had four paintings on show; the one that really caught my eye was a picture of the Sir Henry Birkin’s Bentley at speed. This was an extremely lively painting that was full of life and sparkle.
Senna at Monaco 1984 - Acrylic on canvas
David Johnson displayed nine works with a combination of prints and original acrylic paintings. He is an artist similar to De La Maria who really concentrates on the backgrounds to give a complete picture. His art was mainly nostalgic but he did bring the exhibition nearly up-to-date with a print of one of his paintings of Lewis Hamilton winning the World Championship 2017.
‘A Tight Squeeze’ – Acrylic on canvas
John Ketchell is a frequent exhibitor at such exhibitions and is well represented by Historic Car Art. Besides the six examples of motoring art in the exhibition he had a larger display on one of the major thoroughfare corridors lower in the building. This display was wider than just motoring art and included wild animals and other forms of transport. Smaller images of his work do not do justice to the paintings and my choice was the painting of a Maserati at Monaco titled ‘A Tight Squeeze’.
Le Mans 1970 – Pencil sketch
Tim Layzell’s work continues to amaze and he is producing some superb art. He is currently using two styles, a photo realism and a pop art style of exaggerated speed lines. Of the six works on display I thought the smaller pop art sketches of racing sports cars at speed were excellent.
Bentley Blower – Bronze on granite base
Timothy Potts is very well known for his bronzes, particularly through his formal association with Bentley cars. He had several bronzes of Bentley cars but the one gathering most attention was an official re-design of the flying B mascot.
Mike Hawthorn Jaguar ‘D’ Type – Bronze
Gary Smith also has produced some excellent bronzes over the last ten years. He had five works on display, four Jaguar related sculptures and one of a Bugatti.
‘Trucks & Elephants’ – Acrylic on canvas
Klaus Wagger was the only AFAS artist displaying this year and he was showing four large canvases. He captures the speed and atmosphere so well and his Le Mans scene of the Blower Bentley leading the SSK Mercedes was an excellent example of his art. This was enhanced by the elevated viewpoint in front of the Bentley.
‘1968 The Year of the Escort’ – Watercolour & gouache
Richard Wheatland had six paintings on display including the most recent art of the view of Tyrrell cars at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed. He also had a slightly unusual piece of nostalgic art showing a watercolour/gouache of Ford Escort racing.
Having written reports on the three previous art shows my common complaint was that there was no brochure. Well this year I had my wish come true and how! A lovely card bound 32 glossy page quality publication which will sit in my library. The brochure gives brief details of the artist and illustrates in colour most of the work in the exhibition. I feel that a brochure is very important for the artists as it acts as a future reminder for a viewer who later wishes to buy an exhibit or commission a work.
Overall I really enjoyed the exhibition, but it does concern me that there is some retraction from the spacious Mall Gallery of last year with 20 artists exhibiting and better space for sculptures. The restricted access for the general public is another worry, but I am sure anybody who is keen on motoring art will have been able to make arrangements with the Club to view the art. The main feature was that the quality of the exhibition, art, facilities and brochure really came through. Well done RAC Club!
Tony Clark is a journalist working in the United Kingdom. He is a regular commentator on Eurpean art activities. www.motoringart.info