Meet F1 artist Giana Gyr

Meet F1 artist Giana Gyr

Abstract art, women in motorsports and the inspiration of moving to Camden

“I’ve basically been around wild cars and fast engines my whole life,” laughs American-born artist Giana Gyr, on her inspiration. She grew up in California with a father who specialised in custom upholstery for classic cars, aircraft and racing cars, and was based out of a big hanger at the local airport. Educationally she studied History of Art at university, where she was also a keen athlete “but I never thought I’d manage to meld all these different influences together.”

Having upped sticks and moved to London with her husband during the weird global shutdown of early Covid, Giana was revaluating life –  a bit like all of us – and was feeling uncomfortable about her work in the tech sector, seeking to find what felt more true to the new shape her life was taking. Always a big Formula 1 fan, her transatlantic move coincided with a series of extremely competitive seasons in the sport, and the dynamism of the big race clashes eventually inspired her to pick up a brush.

“There were a few moments during the 2020-21 season where I was watching a race and thought, I know exactly how I’d paint that,” she says. “My lightning bolt moment was during the race at Monza, which is always such a classic, as the Italian fans are incredible. It was the year of Lewis Hamilton versus Max Versappen, and you had both of them on the straight coming into a turn, and you knew one of them had to brake – yet neither of them did. It ended up with Max on top of Lewis’s car, and seeing that, I just knew I just had to paint it.”

F1 artist Giana Gyr

Admiring the geometric aesthetic of the 1970s, the abstract vision of Joan Miro as much as the album sleeves of Factory Records’ Peter Saville, Giana set about carving out her own take on the frenzied fan-favourite moments of modern motor car racing. The result is a collection of stunning swerves, curves and memorable impacts involving primary and pastel colours, bold lines and representing similarly big moments from the F1 seasons.  

“I didn’t share my first painting until the season was over,” says Gyr, “but as soon as I posted it online, I got all these messages from people who knew exactly the moment it represented, before I’d even put the title on it.”

The instant demand for her work, and how it clearly resonated with fans traditionally more used to a standard photo-realistic art portrayal of motorsports, spurred her on further.

I’m inspired by witnessing how humans interact with their environment in these sports,” she says, “so F1 speaks to me on a level, as does painting cycling or the America’s Cup (one day). Anything where you are pushing the boundary of technology and human performance in relation to the environment – I find that to be so beautiful.”

She’s also inspired by the matchbook art of the Soviet Union in the 30s and 40s, and how artists expressed themselves then, even when a lot of what they did was banned. Her rapid success painting the sport also chimes nicely with a moment where we’re witnessing the rise of women in the driving seats in motorsports, too. F1 is one of the only sports where men and women can race against each other, yet it last happened in the 1970s. Giana is keeping an eye on the next generation or racers gradually working their way up through the W series, IndyCar and more. Meanwhile, her art clearly fills a space for the increasing numbers of female fans who love racing, just like she does, but may well have previously felt a little alienated.

“F1 is one of the fastest-growing sports amongst women,” she notes, “and if you are a female fan, and want to incorporate your love of the sport into your home or office, or wear some clothing, what’s out there now is extremely lacking – I call it ‘man cave art’. Not everyone wants to wear a polyester top plastered in sponsor logos, but as the sport gets more diverse, there are more perspectives. If you have 300,000 people attending a Grand Prix weekend, not all are going to love the same thing.”

With demand for her work surprising her (to the extent she’d not got much of an online store in place at first), next month sees Giana’s first full exhibition – and Camdenist readers are invited to come as see her art, while also enjoying a panel discussion about women if F1, live printmaking demonstrations and a silent auction (see details below).

And despite her global inspiration, this is also a very Camden story. Her lockdown-impacted move to the UK led her and her husband to end up renting one of the iconic steel bubbles at the back of architect Nicholas Grimshaw’s Camden Town Sainsbury’s building.

“It was such an interesting space to live in just as I knew I wanted to flip my professional life on its head,” she says. “I’d just sit at the kitchen table, with this wild garage-style door open directly onto the canal, and challenge myself to paint something every day. The setting felt so quintessentially London to me – such a departure from the mountains of California, so it allowed me to feel like I could really go for it with my art, and be fully authentic about it. Camden is so quirky, and unapologetically Camden. The people-watching and the narrowboats going by, I really don’t know if any of this would have happened without it. I think when you uproot your life and you move continents, to feel like you found somewhere that allows you to explore yourself creatively is just amazing. So I yeah, I have a lot of love for Camden. I think that it launched us into a whole new life here in the UK in the best possible way.”

Giana Gyr studios presents Racing Lines – an artist’s perspective on Formula 1, July 1st at The Gallery at Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer St, W1T 3JH Sign up here for a free invitation.

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