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Captivating Artistry: Alastair Gibson’s Solid Carbon Lion Skull

Alastair Gibson, a highly acclaimed artist, has been captivating audiences with his exceptional sculptures that depict natural and human forms using carbon fibre. Through his innovative approach, he pushes the boundaries of this medium, exploring its potential while delving into broader discussions on development and possibilities.

When faced with the skull of a lion, it’s hard not to be drawn to its formidable teeth. The very mention of the word forces us to contemplate our own mouths. The explosive consonant requires us to press our tongues against our incisors and canines, while the elongated ‘ee’ sound stretches our lips, creating a moment poised for action, whether it be a smile or a bite.

From a safe distance, observing a lion’s roar or even its yawn in the wild, through the barriers of a zoo enclosure, or abstractly via a digital screen, allows us to ponder the lethal capabilities of this dominant resident of Africa’s plains. Yet, it is the configuration of the entire jaw, not just its cutting tools, where the true power of the king of the beasts resides, as it kills its prey by breaking their necks or suffocating them.

The layered potency of the apex predator is the subject of “Carbon King,” a limited-edition sculpture by Alastair Gibson. This anatomically correct and to-scale sculpture of a lion’s head is made of solid carbon fibre. The pioneering artist has used a bismuth alloy for the teeth, a hard yet brittle material, while the bone structure of the skull consists of 333 plies of carbon fibre, reinforcing the lion’s brutal tenacity in executing its techniques.

In contrast to Damien Hirst’s “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,” which exposed us to irrational but comprehensible fears through a suspended 14-foot tiger shark in formaldehyde, Gibson’s “Carbon King” offers a close encounter with an equally compelling and mighty hunter, evoking a distinct response.

The sculpture presents a lion’s skull with a hinged, movable jaw, representing the motion the predator would employ to accomplish its critical objectives in the wild. Stripped of flesh, skin, and the majestic adornments of a mane, the piece presents pure functionality in its structural form. It inspires respect rather than fear, forging a deep connection.

“Carbon King” marks Gibson’s third exploration of carbon fibre art in solid form, offering a unique aesthetic beyond the familiar woven texture. The sculpture is composed of horizontally laminated resin-impregnated carbon fibre sheets, which, when cured under heat and pressure, create a wave-like appearance that infuses the piece with latent energy.

Gibson’s love for wildlife and the natural world, as well as his fascination with evolution, was ignited during his childhood in South Africa. The design for “Carbon King” was developed using a skull on loan from the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town. Inspired by the view of Table Mountain, Gibson meticulously crafted the foundation for this sculpture.

Having spent over two decades in the motorsports industry, including 14 years at the pinnacle of Formula One, Gibson’s unique blend of technical precision and artistic flair brings both rigor and quintessential quality to his sculptures, of which he has sold over 2,500 worldwide.

Through his chosen medium of carbon fibre, Gibson investigates one of the fundamental building blocks of life, which forms the basis for all members of the animal kingdom, while also exploring it as “a material for the future of mankind.” Unlike Hirst’s shark, which required replacement after 15 years, Gibson’s “Carbon King” is made from durable materials and mounted on a gearbox selector barrel from a Honda F1 race car.

Continuing to push the boundaries of composition in carbon fibre, Gibson is set to unveil his most ambitious work to date in 2023—a sculpture that combines 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, expanding on his previous works, “We Are All Made of Stars” and “God Save The African Queen.”

ArtÓ gallery is proud to represent Alastair Gibson as he constantly pushes the limits of what can be achieved in carbon fibre art. “Getting intimate with ‘Carbon King’ is both terrifying and tantalising. The sheer impact of the teeth and jaw on our senses makes us realize the deadly nature of a lion,” says ArtÓ Founder Antony Finn. “But this piece goes beyond an immediate reaction, provoking a broader contemplation of what it takes to maintain dominance in nature.”

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