Muse, the Rolls-Royce Art Programme celebrates the global debut of the artworks created by the winners of the Spirit of Ecstasy Challenge. These three unique pieces were exhibited at Cromwell Place, London, from 5-8 October 2022, before embarking on an international tour.
“The Spirit of Ecstasy continues to be our muse for the ongoing pursuit of excellence. She embodies what we as the House of Rolls-Royce stand for: strive for perfection, attention to detail and timeless beauty. It is fascinating to see our icon being transformed into these three very unique expressions, pushing technical and conceptual boundaries. I would like to thank Bi Rongrong, Ghizlane Sahli and Scarlett Yang for their extraordinary masterpieces celebrating a different dimension of our iconic figurine, manifesting the exciting future of textile design.”Anders Warming, Director of Design, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
The Spirit of Ecstasy Challenge is a new biennial initiative that invites emerging artists from a range of disciplines to create artworks inspired by the Rolls-Royce icon – the beautiful figurine that has adorned the bonnet of every motor car created by the marque since 1911. Each edition of the Spirit of Ecstasy Challenge will focus on a different medium, challenging participants to push technical and conceptual boundaries. The inaugural 2022 edition explores the potential of textiles, inviting artists to create textile-based artwork.
The winners – Bi Rongrong, Ghizlane Sahli and Scarlett Yang – developed three unique interpretations of the Rolls-Royce symbol. As part of the creative process, the artists met Rolls-Royce’s master craftspeople to exchange experiences before bringing their ideas and innovative creations to life.
Bi Rongrong – Stitched Urban Skin
Stitched Urban Skin (2022) is inspired by the multi-layered landscape of cities and their mesmerising reflections on the glossy surface of the Spirit of Ecstasy. Old and new are woven together: the artwork consists of three suspended layers of two-dimensional sheets made from specially treated metal, an animated LED light sheet and a Perspex sheet incorporating a material created using a traditional Chinese crochet technique.
The use of metal in the work is inspired by the Rolls-Royce motor car surface and pays homage to the exceptional craftsmanship at the Home of Rolls-Royce. The piece draws on Bi’s encyclopaedic archive of urban imagery, utilising both ancient craftsmanship and innovative technologies, interlacing different locations and histories.
“This piece wasn’t inspired by a singular thing, it’s a blend of patterns connected to cities and nature – the way they grow is very similar. People see only what’s on the surface – the architecture and the trees – but underneath are hidden interwinding roots”, said Bi.
She continued: “The Rolls-Royce team gave me full artistic freedom, encouraging me to try new things and be truly brave. I experimented and changed the whole piece many times, which eventually made it even more captivating. This experience has presented me with new possibilities and opened up a different perspective which I will bring into my future work”.
Ghizlane Sahli – Nissa’s Rina (Woman’s Song)
Resembling two triumphant wings about to take flight, Sahli’s artwork Nissa’s Rina (Woman’s Song) (2022) is a joyous celebration of femininity and freedom. The artwork explores the beauty of metamorphosing and is composed almost entirely of salvaged materials: plastic bottles, plastic tubes, and caps, covered with white silk and gold thread purchased from the artisans in Marrakech’s Medina and copper embellished with gold leaf.
For Nissa’s Rina (Woman’s Song), Sahli adopts her signature technique of wrapping cut bottles in thread, the“Alveoli, and building up each element into wing-like structures evocative of the Spirit of Ecstasy.
“The Spirit of Ecstasy – that elegant, free woman who crowns the most prestigious car in the world. A symbol of power, she opens her wings to take flight and rules the world. What a synchronicity for me! She embodies everything that I would like to express in my life today”, – said Sahli. “Nissa’s Rina (Woman’s song), aims to express the elegance, the femininity, and the freedom of the Spirit of Ecstasy”.
Scarlett Yang – Transient Materiality (2022)
Scarlett Yang’s Transient Materiality (2022) is a hybrid work that consists of a physical and digital piece. The 1-metre-high sculpture is made of intertwining ribbons of synthetic biopolymer produced with liquid particles collected from the ocean and bound with algae photosynthetic organisms.
The sculpture’s form, surface and colour all reflect the natural world: its unique texture inspired the subtle intricacy of animal skin patterns and the structural resilience of translucent dragonfly wings. Made by pouring the liquid bio-polymer into a 3D-fabricated mould, while the ribbons’ green and purple hues were created through experiments with spirulina and other natural components.
Suspended in the air, the piece mesmerizes with its shimmering, iridescent qualities – an ethereal expression of elegance, reminiscent of the flying gown of the Spirit of Ecstasy. The accompanying digital element is a video documentation of the creative process as well as digital renderings of the sculpture, set to a futuristic soundscape.
“My work consists in exploring the physical properties that nature gracefully offers and enhancing them through conscious and circular use of technology. The piece ‘Transient Materiality’ is ultimately meant to embellish the human body whilst serving a truly positive approach for the future of design”, commented Scarlett Yang.
The artists, invited to create their proposals for the Spirit of Ecstasy Challenge, were nominated by an international expert committee. Their submissions were reviewed by a renowned jury consisting of Anders Warming, Director of Design, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars; Yoon Ahn, Creative Director of AMBUSH® and Director of Jewellery at Dior Men; Tim Marlow, Chief Executive and Director at the Design Museum, London; and Sumayya Vally, Founder and Principal at Counterspace Studio, Johannesburg. In April 2022 Muse announced the three winners who were chosen to bring their concept to life with support from Rolls-Royce.
The Spirit of Ecstasy Challenge is the second commissioning initiative of Muse. While the Dream Commission supports artists working with moving-image art, the Spirit of Ecstasy Challenge celebrates the endless creativity within the world of materials and craftsmanship. Every two years, the Challenge will be repeated, each time exploring the limitless possibilities of a different medium key to Rolls-Royce craftsmanship, with the Spirit of Ecstasy serving as a point of inspiration.
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