Master of his medium
If Georgio Vasari was alive today he would be writing about Alastair Gibson. Fact. But instead of marvelling at the mastery of marble, or writing an ode to opulent oils, the father of art biography would be gazing in awe at the luminous finish and intricate weave of carbon fibre through Gibson’s arresting sculptures.
In Vasari’s view Michelangelo’s David ‘carried off the palm from all other statues’ due to its ‘proportion, beauty and excellence’. Gibson is easily worthy of the same accolade. His artworks are anatomically correct, perfectly capture the essence of natural and human forms and are executed with exacting precision.
‘Art is seeing the conscious use of skill and creative imagination,’ explains Gibson, the only artist creating sculptures exclusively in the carbon fibre medium and producing artworks concerned with the very building blocks of life. ‘It must have beauty, form and redemption, art without ideas is just decoration.’
A focus on form and function
Gibson’s body of work is typified by renderings of apex predators and iconic species, testament to the South African-born artist’s passion for wildlife and interest in the evolution of the natural world. These include a wide range of sculptures depicting marine life and archetypal mammals, pieces which demand the attention of the viewer.
Known for his storytelling abilities – which are so inherent as to be a part of his DNA – and philosophical approach to life, Gibson’s artwork has now moved into a study of the human condition. It’s no wonder his recent sculptures include bold interpretations of human hearts and skulls.
Gibson’s most exciting, and challenging, project to date, a 3.7m carbon fibre reimagining of Michelangelo’s David, positions him firmly as the embodiment of the modern day renaissance man, striving for success and achieving it against the odds through owning his artistic medium just as Michelangelo did five centuries ago.
The path to creative success
At the core, it could be said that an artist’s expertise lies in fine motor skills as much as their overall vision and understanding of form. In Gibson’s case, these skills were fine-tuned in the motorsports industry, where he excelled for over two decades specialising in problem solving and ingenuity to bring solutions to intricate engineering challenges.
Gibson’s triumphs on the racetrack (as lead mechanic for the Benetton Formula One team and chief mechanic for BAR and Honda) were accomplished through the application of his broad thinking attitude to engineering and a driven personality. He also harnessed his knowledge to create light-weight carbon fibre equipment to allow tenths of seconds to be shaved off critical pitstop times.
It’s no wonder this mechanical creativity prompted him to return to his first dream of being an artist, bringing with it a competitive edge to his relationship with his selected material. Equally it’s no surprise that in crossing over to the art world he has kept strong links to motorsports (his sculptures are typically embellished with original parts from Grand Prix cars), being courted and personally commissioned to produce some of the most recognisable automotive mascots.
Establishing in the art world
As an artist, Gibson now occupies the enviable position of having sold his work to clients and collectors worldwide through a network of galleries. He is proof that it’s possible to deliver output with creative integrity and be rewarded for it. Gibson’s Carbon David is his most thrilling piece so far – and with its interchangeable features the most thought-provoking – in his continual domination and innovation of his chosen carbon fibre medium.
Perhaps Gibson’s success is such because he actively engages with his audience and the world around him. He builds close personal connections with collectors, seizes the attention of key influencers, forges collaborations with galleries and considers wider discourses and debate. Yet he remains always approachable and humble, as avid a listener and observer as he is an eager raconteur.
Art with meaning and purpose
Gibson’s sculptures speak for themselves in terms of artistry and skill and those who encounter them are consistently captivated. He prompts discussions where tautology is not a fault and eulogising to the nth degree occurs naturally. What also draws people to Gibson’s pieces is that they can discover and invest in the character behind the creation and the expression of talent and life experience so intrinsic to his work.
The concept of longevity is a topic of interest to Gibson. He describes carbon fibre as ‘a material for the future of mankind’ and is fascinated in ways it may help us to look after our planet. As a pioneer of its use in art, Gibson is undeniably on a trajectory to becoming regarded as the founding father of the carbon fibre medium in the centuries to come. His engineering inspired sculpture is a lesson in invention and forward-thinking which we should all endeavour to live by.