By Sophie Yardley for Squarely Magazine
I first had the pleasure of crossing paths with Alastair Gibson at the gallery opening of Studio 74, a contemporary art gallery nestled on Whiteladies Road. Their launch night showcased a remarkable array of renowned artists, including the likes of Mr. Brainwash and The Connor Brothers. Amidst these artists, I was captivated by a work of art titled ‘God Save The African Queen’—a striking sculpture, crafted from solid carbon fibre, unlike anything I’ve encountered before.
Cassie, the charismatic gallery owner of Studio 74, introduced us to Gibson, whose passion and undeniable talent instantaneously captivated all who surrounded him. ‘God Save The African Queen’ represented one of Alastair’s more experimental pieces, with much of his collection revolving around marine life.
A true artist, Gibson’s remarkable career has been a lifetime in the making. Alastair spent his childhood in South Africa, where vacations on the Natal South Coast immersed him in the wonders of marine life, leaving an indelible mark on his artistic journey. As he grew older, Gibson’s fascination with motor racing bloomed under the influence of his father, culminating in an illustrious career spanning over two decades in the motorsport industry. For fourteen years, he served as the lead mechanic for the Benetton F1 team, followed by ten years as the race team chief mechanic for the BAR and Honda Grand Prix Teams.
Following the gallery launch, Gibson extended an invitation for us to visit his studio in Brackley. The studio serves as both a creative workshop and a home away from home, even graced by the presence of Beady, the once-stray but now beloved studio cat. Gibson’s passions unfold on multiple fronts, as his artistic endeavours intertwine with his love for all things automotive. Within his studio, amidst the captivating world of carbon art, he also devotes his time to restoring pre-World War II motorbikes. The space resonates with his rich Formula One history, adorned with motorsport memorabilia, alongside an extensive collection of artwork from other artists whom Gibson admires.
As I explored the studio, I was captivated by the fastidious organization that permeated every corner. Not a single item was out of place, a testament to the meticulous attention to detail required by the creative process at hand. Gibson’s background as an engineer shines in his artistic approach, beautifully harmonizing with his interest for marine life to model aerodynamic sculptures.
We were able to witness each step of his creative process, from the storage of carbon fibre, to the skillful shaping of sculptures in his handmade moulds, and the careful assembly of each piece. Gibson even treated us with a visit to the Mercedes Benz paint shop where his sculptures are painted, and the stickers adorning some of his pieces are made. The sheer grandeur of the F1 base was breath-taking, and Gibson was clearly very at home here as he gave us the grand tour.
Gibson’s artistic talents extend far beyond marine sculptures. He ventures into creating exquisite Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornaments for custom Rolls Royces, while consistently pushing the limits of what can be achieved with carbon fibre. The anticipation built as we had a glimpse of Gibson’s latest project, unlike anything he has ever undertaken before. It is poised to make a resounding impact in the art scene, generating widespread excitement and curiosity. Which for now, we’ve got to keep under the radar!
A friend recently asked Gibson where he would be in his art career if he hadn’t been so heavily involved with F1. Gibson’s response; it’s impossible to imagine. The two are so intricately intertwined, and his mechanical expertise has been such a catalyst for what he does. Gibson strides forward as an accomplished artist, with some incredibly exciting projects underway, the future holds an air of boundless possibilities. Only time will reveal the remarkable artistic journeys yet to unfold for him.