A ceramic model of a Welsh world land speed record-breaking car goes on display this weekend at a Swansea shopping centre.
‘Babs’, the car piloted by Welshman John Parry-Thomas to the record back in the 1920s, has inspired the sculpture by artist David Cushway which will be on show at the city’s busy Quadrant Shopping Centre.
The eight foot by four foot model will be the focal point of Art Across the City, a Swansea-wide celebration of art and creativity and will be housed in the thriving Centre’s only remaining vacant unit.
Exhibition organiser Gordon Dalton explained: “The unit in the Quadrant will form the hub of this year’s Art AcrossThe City event which brings artists from all over the world to Swansea in a large scale public art outreach project.
“The artists are a mix of established and emerging talents and they come to Swansea to make art which usually ends up being some sort of response to, or referring back to, the local area.
“All the pieces are on display for eight to 10 weeks and during that time we have guided tours, workshops and local school programmes going on.”
This year’s project includes artists from all over the country, diverse creations in various forms and even a specially commissioned ice cream that will form part of one interactive art experience.
The centrepiece of the display in the Quadrant Shopping Centre will the sculpture by ceramic artist David Cushway which draws on the styling of the vehicle used by John Parry-Thomas in his land speed record attempts at nearby Pendine Sands.
They took place in the 1920s and won Parry-Thomas fame as well as several records before ultimately claiming his life in 1927 in a bid to regain the land speed record.
He had been born in Wrexham and went on to be chief engineer at Leyland Motors before deciding to create vehicles for himself, eventually building ‘Babs’, the car that held the land speed record of 170mph in 1926.
David has looked at both archive photographs and futuristic vehicle designs and plans to create a piece of art that will hover somewhere between being a vehicle and a sculpture.
The 49-year-old artist who lives in Cardiff said: “It will be an ambiguous creation of something that could potentially be built and could be real but could also be a piece of sculpture.
“I am ceramic trained so I am really interested in clay and its qualities. It is such a primitive material but can still be used to create cutting edge technologies.”
Starting with a high-density foam model, David will cover his creation in clay and install it at the Quadrant Shopping Centre where it can be seen from March 21 until June 1.
Over the course of the exhibition, David’s creation will dry out and start to crack. He said: “The clay will be covered with a varnish and from a distance it will look perfectly finished but when you get near you will see that it is cracking which will reveal the material reality of clay.”
Gordon, aged 44, lives in Cardiff with his wife and two children and says the Quadrant display will achieve exactly what he hopes as it will force people to ask questions about not only the art but their local area.
He said: “People will come in, see the car and ask what it is. Before they know it they will be learning about history, the geography of the area, Pendine Sands, the technology of clay, all sorts.
“It is a different way for schools to encourage learning outside of the curriculum and it gets people to go to local places and find out both about Swansea’s heritage and its future.”
Ian Kirkpatrick, Manager of the Quadrant Shopping Centre, said: “This is a wonderful idea and we’re delighted that we are at the heart of the exhibition – we’re just glad we had a unit to spare.
“The land speed record attempts by Parry-Thomas down at Pendine Sands are part of the history of the motor car and to have this wonderful sculpture here at the Quadrant will give so many people the opportunity to see it.”
To find out more about the Art Across The City event visit www.locwsinternational.com or call in to unit 11a at the Quadrant Shopping Centre from March 21 when it will be open to the public.
For more on the Quadrant Shopping Centre go to www.quadrantshopping.co.uk
Babs and Parry-Thomas
The original Babs was a Higham Special car which Parry-Thomas remodelled and fitted with a massive 27-litre V-12 aero-engine.
He set a world land speed record of 170mph in the car at Pendine Sands on April 28, 1926, but was killed there the following year on March 3 when Babs overturned at over 100mph.
Parry-Thomas was trying to regain the record from Malcolm Campbell who had also used Pendine Sands for his record runs a few weeks earlier.
Parry-Thomas, born in Wrexham in 1884, the son of the Curate of Rhosddu, was buried in Surrey, close to the old Brooklands Racing Circuit while Babs was buried in the dunes at Pendine Sands.
The car was rescued in 1969 and restored by Owen Wyn Owen, of Bangor University, and is displayed at the Museum of Speed at Pendine.