Johannesburg car enthusiasts were recently treated to an art exhibit where Renault South Africa showcased just what happens when art meets technological design. Four local artists were given a week to use four cars from two models of the company’s Mégane range as canvases to express their art.
The works, featuring two coupes and two hatchbacks, were showcased on 23 July to mark the launch of the 2012 Mégane collection.
Neo Dhlamini, Richard Forbes, Ana Damas and Rhett Martyn, all based in Johannesburg, were given a week to transform their cars.
Danielle Melville, head of communications for Renault, spoke of her company’s excitement regarding the project.
“These artists stretch themselves into the art of the possible, exceptional, innovative and progressive,” she said reflecting on the art works.
Of spider webs and quarries
The inspiration for Forbes came from giant funnel spider webs, and he was drawn to the role of the Mégane Coupe Expression and how it could express both art and mobility.
A visual artist, he also teaches art at Pretoria University and boasts seven solo exhibitions to his name, both in the UK and locally, and another 20 group exhibitions.
“While travelling around South Africa I observed the sharp, rectangular, man-made and imposed quarries carved into the hillsides,” explained Forbes.
“It came to me that the scars of the quarries would be a perfect site for a series of art installations depicting giant funnel spider webs.”
These webs, he added, could become a site people would view and visit as they travelled, effectively allowing art to link the country.
Earning your stripes
For 23-year-old graphic designer Dhlamini, the hatchback GT Line model provided the perfect canvas for his racing-inspired artwork. He lists among his interests Japanese anime, motion graphics, illustration and animation.
“My design is inspired by the stripes found on legendary racing and sports cars,” Dlamini explained.
He added that the main feature of his art is two lines that run from the front of the bonnet and go on to split into six lines, extending to the top and sides of the vehicle. The lines spell out the words ‘smart’, ‘intuitive’, ‘high tech’ and ‘easy’.
“The fine line work around the lights at the front and back draw attention to the car’s new exterior features. The symmetry between the left and right is a representation of how the Mégane presents a balance between an everyday car and a beast of speed when you really push it.”
Inspired by the universe
Damas is arguably the veteran of the group, with a career spanning over two decades in a variety of disciplines. Her formal training includes stints at the Foundation Art School and the Michaelis School of Art in Cape Town, as well as at the Pretoria Technikon, where she majored in sculpture and print making.
She was commissioned to work on the Hatch Dynamique dCi Energy TD, which is Renault’s answer to demands of environment-friendly designs.
“My concept is based on the myth of the goddess Sophia, which views the earth as a living entity or organism and points to her as the creator of the world,” Damas pointed out.
“For her survival, Sophia needs the cooperation of all mankind and all efforts to keep the planet clean, green and energy efficient. “
The myth also describes the origin of the solar system, the earth and the human species. Sophia’s story translates into artwork through the use of organic lines, presenting the vehicle incorporated into the cosmos.
“Starting from the bonnet, I visualised a spiral galaxy with Mother Earth emerging from the core. The spiral arms of the galaxy spread along the sides of the car like branches of a tree,” Damas said.
Going for rough and dirty
Former student of the Durban University of Technology and Wits University, Martyn is now an artist and arts lecturer. He has exhibited prolifically at galleries locally and abroad, and holds an academic advisory and coordination position at the InScape Design College.
His car was the Mégane RS Trophy, Renault’s performance flagship.
Martyn believes there is only the slightest difference between what could be defined as a drawing, and what might be seen as random processes of ‘mark making’ created as the by-product of any natural or mechanical action.
"Take for instance the way in which a car travelling at high speed might create markings along a road as the tyres deposit a layer of rubber on the asphalt, if that vehicle had to suddenly come to a screeching halt.”
Are the subsequent road markings art, or are they merely the by-product of the functioning of the car stopping? he asked.
The mark making, he added, created by the upheaval of mud and dust onto the body work by the wheels of a car, could be looked at in the same way.
“As I began to conceptualise a design approach for my car, I took into consideration how the car itself could become the facilitator of its own drawing process.”
Martyn described his design as dirty, often aggressive, disparate and rough. Despite this, he explained, it still reflects the grace of art by echoing the faceted shards prevailing in Parisian cubism – with a contemporary neon edge, of course.