Alastair Gibson, a renowned artist, is pushing the boundaries of his chosen medium by creating physiologically perfect sculptures in carbon fibre. His innovative approach to the material extends its capabilities while sparking discussions on development and potential.
When contemplating a lion’s skull, one cannot help but be captivated by its teeth. The very mention of the word leads to contemplation of one’s own mouth. The explosive consonant forces the tongue against the incisors and canines, while the long ‘ee’ sound stretches the lips, creating a moment of anticipation, whether it be a smile or a bite.
The roar or yawn of a lion, observed from a distance in nature, through the barriers of a zoo enclosure, or abstractly on a digital screen, allows viewers to safely ponder the lethal capabilities of the dominant resident of Africa’s plains. However, it is the entire jaw structure, not just its cutting tools, where the true power of the king of beasts lies, as it kills its prey by breaking their necks or suffocating them.
Capturing the layered potency of the apex predator, Alastair Gibson has created Carbon King, a limited-edition, anatomically correct sculpture of a lion’s head in solid carbon fibre. The pioneering artist has used a hard yet brittle bismuth alloy for the teeth, while the bone structure of the skull consists of 333 plies of carbon fibre, reinforcing the brutal tenacity of a lion’s hunting technique.
In contrast to Damien Hirst’s “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,” which confronted irrational fears through the encounter with a 14-foot tiger shark suspended in formaldehyde, Gibson’s Carbon King prompts a different response.
The sculpture presents a lion’s skull with a hinged moveable jaw, representing the motion the predator would employ in the wild. Stripped of flesh, skin, and the majestic mane, the piece showcases pure functional structure—survival. Gibson’s artwork instills respect rather than fear, inviting a profound connection.
Carbon King is Gibson’s third exploration of solid carbon fibre art, offering a distinct aesthetic from the familiar woven texture. The sculpture is composed of horizontally laminated resin-impregnated carbon fibre sheets, resulting in a wavelike appearance that exudes latent energy.
Gibson’s passion for wildlife, the natural world, and evolution was ignited during his childhood in South Africa. The design for Carbon King was developed using a skull loaned from the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town. With Table Mountain as his inspiration, Gibson meticulously created the foundation for the sculpture.
Having spent over two decades in the motorsports industry, including 14 years in Formula One, Gibson brings technical precision and artistic flair to his sculptures, which have been sold to more than 2,500 collectors worldwide.
Working with carbon fibre, Gibson explores one of the building blocks of life while considering it as “a material for the future of mankind.” Unlike Hirst’s shark, which had to be replaced after 15 years, Gibson’s Carbon King is made from durable materials and is mounted on a gearbox selector barrel from a Honda F1 race car.
Gibson continues to push the boundaries of composition in carbon fibre and will unveil his most challenging work to date in 2023—a sculpture that combines his creative imagination, artistic expression, problem-solving skills, and engineering expertise. 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 continues to explore the possibilities of carbon fibre art. “Getting intimate with Carbon King is both terrifying and tantalising. The impact of the teeth and jaw on your senses makes you realize the true deadliness of a lion,” says ArtÓ Founder Antony Finn. “But the piece goes beyond an immediate reaction, inviting contemplation of what it takes to stay on top in nature.”