LONDON, UK, 23rd May 2023 - Alastair Gibson is a renowned artist creating physiologically perfect sculptures depicting natural and human forms in carbon fibre. He is revolutionising his chosen medium to produce artworks that extend the capabilities of the material while considering wider discourses on development and potential.
When contemplating a lion’s skull, it’s difficult not to get distracted by its teeth. The very act of saying the word causes you to contemplate your own mouth. The plosive consonant forces you to push your tongue against your incisors and canines, the long ‘ee’ phoneme makes your lips stretch wide and creates a moment of transition, face poised for action, be it a smile or a bite.
The roar, even the yawn, of a lion, observed from a distance in nature, through the barrier of a zoo enclosure or abstractly via a digital screen, allows the viewer to safely ponder the lethal capabilities of the dominant resident of Africa’s plains. Yet it is the configuration of the entire jaw, and not just its cutting tools, where the intense power of the king of the beasts truly lies, killing its prey by breaking its neck or suffocating it.
The layered potency of the apex predator is the subject of Carbon King, a limited-edition, anatomically correct and to scale sculpture of a lion’s head in solid carbon fibre by Alastair Gibson. The pioneering artist has used bismuth alloy for the teeth, a hard yet brittle material, whereas the bone structure of the skull consists of 333 plies of carbon fibre reinforcing the brutal tenacity of a lion’s execution technique.
Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living invited us to face irrational but comprehendible fears by encountering a 14 foot tiger shark in the security of our own habitat, suspended inanimately in formaldehyde behind glass. Gibson’s Carbon King allows a close encounter with an equally compelling and mighty hunter but prompts a wholly different response.
The sculpture presents a lion’s skull with a hinged moveable jaw, representing the motion the predator would employ to achieve its critical aim in the wild. In the absence of flesh and skin or the majestic adornments of a mane, the piece presents structure at its purest function. Survival. Gibson’s artwork has an intriguing way of instilling respect rather than fear and by doing so inviting a deep connection.
Carbon King is Gibson’s third exploration of carbon fibre art in solid form, an innovative approach to the material that delivers an entirely different aesthetic to the familiar woven texture. The sculpture is composed of horizontally laminated resin-impregnated carbon fibre sheets which, when cured under heat and pressure, result is a wavelike appearance that imbues the piece with latent energy.
Gibson’s love for wildlife and the natural world and fascination with evolution was ignited during his childhood in South Africa. The design for Carbon King was created thanks to the use of a skull loaned from the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town. Gibson then spent many hours, with a view of Table Mountain to inspire him, meticulously creating the basis for the sculpture.
Followers of the artist will know that he spent over two decades in the motorsports industry, including 14 years at the height of Formula One, before applying his creative talents to art. This unique marriage of technical precision and artistic flair bring both a rigour and quintessential quality to Gibson’s sculptures which he has sold more than 2,500 of worldwide.
Working within his chosen medium of carbon fibre, Gibson investigates simultaneously one of the building blocks for life, from which all members of the animal kingdom are made, and ‘a material for the future of mankind’. Unlike Hirst’s shark however, which had to be replaced after 15 years, Gibson’s Carbon King is made from durable materials. It is mounted on a gearbox selector barrel from a Honda F1 race car.
Gibson continues to push the boundaries of composition in carbon fibre and will be unveiling his most challenging work to date in 2023 with a sculpture that will harness his creative imagination, artistic expression, problem solving skills and engineering expertise to extraordinary effect. The piece will be a detailed study of the human form and extension of his works We Are All Made Of Stars and God Save The African Queen.
ArtÓ gallery is proud to be representing Alastair Gibson as he continues to drive at the edges of what is possible in carbon fibre art. ‘Getting intimate with Carbon King is both terrifying and tantalising. The enormity of the impact of the teeth and jaw on your senses makes you realise just how deadly a lion is,’ says ArtÓ Founder Antony Finn. ‘But the piece goes beyond an immediate reaction in its broader consideration of what it takes to stay on top in nature.’