Axalta Coating Systems is working with automotive manufacturers in their quest to make vehicles lighter in order to reduce emissions and fuel consumption by replacing standard steel with composites such as carbon fiber. Axalta applies the technology behind its OEM coatings and refinish paint brands, including one of its three premium global refinish brands Spies Hecker, to develop coating systems for car manufacturers using carbon fiber and other lightweight substrates.
But the Axalta coating technology has, for one artist, even wider applications. Mixing artistic skill with a heavy dose of engineering expertise, artist Alastair Gibson draws on his 15 years of experience in Formula One to create his carbon fiber sculptures, each finished with Spies Hecker.
“All the time that goes into the pieces before the coating process – and that can be as much as four weeks – would be wasted if we couldn’t get a gorgeous finish from Spies Hecker to show off the weave of the carbon fiber,” said Gibson.
While Gibson has established himself at the cutting edge of carbon fiber sculpture in the eight years since becoming a full-time artist, his career is steeped in motorsport. After seven years in lower racing formulas, he spent 15 years in Formula One, first as lead mechanic for the Benetton F1 Team, and then as race team chief mechanic for the BAR and Honda Grand Prix teams.
And Gibson’s carbon fiber sculptures cleverly incorporate titanium Formula One parts, each of which has a production and part number that can be traced back to a specific car and race. These titanium components form the eyes of the Racing Piranha and the spine of the Carbon King, which is based on a lion’s skull. Many pieces are displayed on a section of perma-glass, under-floor planks that have been part of Formula One cars.