Artist Angela Palmer was given unprecedented access to the highly secretive world of Formula One engineering to realise the extraordinary collection of sculptures. In collaboration with Renault Sport F1, the artist deconstructed the world’s most successful F1 engine, the RS27, with the help of their pioneering engineers at their F1 laboratories in Paris.
Angela Palmer 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 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 walnut while one of the small cogs inspired a four-foot column in Portland stone. 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). Palmer has also recreated the V8 engine life-size in glass, by hand drawing the cross-sections of the engine on multiple sheets of glass. The impression is the engine ‘floating’ in space, accompanied by headphones with the sound of the much lamented V8, now replaced by the less thunderous V6. The glass re-creation is shown in the exhibition alongside the actual V8.
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