Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


IMAGINE SEEING a modern Formula One engine deconstructed before your eyes. More difficult for me, imagine seeing this through the eyes of a talented artist.

Renault’s top-security headquarters in Viry-Chatillon, France, is the home of its F1 engines, including those used by Fernando Alonso in his 2006 World Drivers’ Championship as well as by Sebastian Vettel in his four consecutive titles, 2010 – 2013.

This year’s F1 engines are completely different (see for a look at Mercedes’ 2014 hybrid power system). These changes removed the cloak of secrecy from Renault’s all-conquering RS26 and RS27 V-8s, and allowed British artist/F1 enthusiast Angela Palmer into the Viry-Chatillon works.


Angela Palmer, British artist, journalist; BFA, Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford; MA, Royal College of Art.

Palmer’s solo show, in collaboration with Renault Sport F1, is aptly titled “Adrenalin.” It’s at London’s Fine Art Society until December 23, 2014. Fortunately for those of us far from London, a virtual tour can be taken at

As noted in the catalog, “In her sculpture, Palmer shifts the focus from function and mechanism to the visual power of form and material.”


Double Driven Gear, Part 6, Portland stone, 27 x 135 x 27 cm. Edition of four.

Palmer was given access to actual hardware as well as engineers’ CAD drawings of the engines. As one example, she transformed this medium into a multilayer array of amazing complexity.


V8 Engine, ink drawings on 25 sheets of Mirogard glass, 75 x 119 x 72 cm. Edition of three.

Like many other pieces in the exhibit, the V8 Engine is for sale, in this case as one of an edition of three.

Palmer sensed “an intestinal quality” of complex F1 exhaust systems. She doubled their size and did one in American black walnut, the other in red-hot resin.



Above, Walnut exhaust, Part 9, American black walnut, 61 x 103 x 67 cm. Below, Red hot exhaust, Part 7, resin, 61 x 103 x 67 cm. Each in an edition of four.

Walnut exaust 014

The catalog notes that the Renault’s F1 exhaust reached 1000 degrees Celsius (more than 1800 degrees Fahrenheit) within five seconds of operation.

Palmer also admired the nature of race circuits. She observed, “Seen in the abstract, they are redolent of Eastern calligraphy.”


Above, Circuit de Monaco, 50 x 103 x 14 cm; below, Shanghai International Circuit, 65 x 96 x 14 cm. Each, neon mounted on aluminum.


Included in these race circuit constructions of neon on aluminum are Monaco, Singapore’s Marina Bay street circuit, Brazil’s Interlagos, Goodwood, Spa-Francorchamps, Suzuka (one from overhead, another from aerial perspective view) and Shanghai (its shape inspired by the Chinese character shang, 上).


F1 Helmet, blown in crystal glass, cast from an actual F1 driver helmet. Edition of 6.

The catalog notes that Palmer’s F1 Helmet, cast in a delicate crystal glass, reminds us “of the ever-present fragility faced by drivers in the fastest motor sport in the world.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014

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