Putting Pop Art On Porsches
“When most people watch a car race, their focus is on the speed, driver and model of the car. That is not the case with me. The first thing I notice is the artwork. And it bothers me these days to see racing cars looking like a bunch of logos have fallen haphazardly all over them.”
This is not an offhand comment from an armchair art or motorsport critic. Merry Sparks knows exactly what she is talking about. The award-winning Brisbane artist has spent the last five years of her three-decade career designing stunning vinyl wraps for numerous racing cars, including Porsches.
As a child, Merry was raised on the usual art staples of pencils and paints. Seven years ago she attended an exhibition in Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art and found herself face-to-face with the work of famous pop artist, Andy Warhol. From then on, pop art became the driving force of her imagination and creations.
The Warhol exhibition also fired her up enough to enroll in a printing course to expand her repertoire of skills and techniques. Merry tells woman with drive, “Silk-screen printing, in particular, took me a step further and I incorporated it with photography and technology to create transparencies. This aided and prepared me for applying my art to any surface, including cars.”
By that point, Merry had carved a deep niche in pop art that she presented to the world in the form of paintings, prints, apparel and gifts. Her sources of inspiration are plentiful from conversations and landscapes to fashion and multimedia. And while the resulting artwork is vibrant and whimsical, she is known to slip poignant, and sometimes pointed, messages on Australian identity and cultural heritage into each piece.
An oft-quoted example is a T-shirt of a koala with an earring and the caption “How Much Can A Koala?”. Part of that message is an urging to embrace national identity while the other half is a dig at those who insist that the Koala is a bear.
After years of helming a thriving art and giftware business, a different opportunity knocked. This one would usher Merry into the world of motorsport. She was asked to design a vinyl wrap design for a Porsche 997 GT3 Cup Car. Once again she took the unconventional route by drawing inspiration from her series of paintings called “I Shotgun”.
“The design features large pistols that flank both sides of the car and crossed pistols on its bonnet,” Merry explains. “Pistols are the perfect subjects for a racing car since they smell of speed. And colour means everything to me so it was important to select an eye-catching colour scheme.”
“That painting series was named to appeal to the younger generation which started the strange saying “I Shotgun!” (an urban slang meaning to snare pole position). And so the car became known as the “Shotgun” car. That Porsche made heads turn!”
Merry makes no secret of her love for sports cars, which she says represents her “determination to succeed whilst taking life’s knocks on the chin”. Being able to use these cars as a canvas for her pop art is hugely gratifying for her. She has wrapped entire cars with artwork or jazzed them up with metallic stripes but what she truly adores immersing herself in are the full wrap projects.
“Even an old bomb can be transformed into something spectacular with a vinyl wrap. And it is more cost-effective than a paint job yet protects the surface from stone chips.”
Since setting off on this track, Merry has designed the vinyl wrap artwork for five Porsches. Asked to pick a favourite, she names her most recent project – a 991 Turbo (left).
“The design is based on my aqua, lime, hot pink and yellow abstract painting, which reminds me of the colours of Australian opals,” she says. “The car sports a major sponsor, the Better Breathing Foundation, a not-for-profit that supports research on chronic lung diseases. It will be participating in the Porsche Tour Targa Tasmania in April, track days and will also be seen on the streets of Sydney.”
Merry is confident that this 991 Turbo, like the rest of those that she has brought alive through her art, will be yet another head-turner. Again, this is not a casual remark. Like the owners of those cars, she knows the pull of her arresting designs. And she recently answered a pull in her own life when she bought her dream car, a “little red rocket of a Cayman S.”
“There is a window in every mother’s life when she can drive a sports car again – it is after the kids no longer require you to be their driver and before the grandchildren appear. I love driving GT3s, but they are hungry for a racetrack and not just suburbia.”
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