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November 21, 2009 – 9:48 pm

Polystyrene my Ride

- Posted in Art & Sculpture, Polystyrene Uses, Recycling, Sport related by Fran

The title of this blog post would never be used for a TV programme as it flows off your tongue like sandpaper on butter – You would need to have a snappy title like Top Gear, Pimp my ride or Xccelerate.
Xccelerate is new to Irish television and is the only motoring programme that is produced entirely in Ireland. However, I don’t think they will be testing any of the vehicles here, though we could arrange it, if they were interested.

Hummer H1 replica carved from Styrofoam

Hummer replica carved from Styrofoam

The fullsize styrofoam (or polystyrene) Hummer H1 was created by Andy Junge and was the centrepiece of his show, entitled “American Detritus”. This was  following a three-month residency at San Francisco Recycling & Disposal’s Artist In Residence Program. It was handcrafted from thousands of individual pieces of polystyrene that had been shaped and sanded down. They are held together with five gallons of glue, a case of adhesive, and various screws, bolts, metal rods and pipes. It is 17 feet long, 6 feet high, and with mirrors, over 8 feet wide.

There was no need to supersize the Hummer, as its dimensions are already in that league, however the same isn’t true of our next vehicle.

Giant bike sculpture in honour of Craig Jones

Giant bike sculpture in honour of Craig Jones by the Portuguese Sculptress Paula Hespanha

The scale replica of Craig Jones’ World Supersport bike is approximately 9 feet tall and was installed at the entrance of the racing circuit in Portimao, Portugal. People arriving at the circuit for the final round of the 2009 World Superbike Championship, couldn’t help but notice the large sculpture.
The bike was created in EPS (expanded polystyrene foam) and was strengthened using metal armatures with a mesh and plaster coating, then hand-painted to imitate the original bike. The level of detail is quite remarkable considering the size of the item.
The circuit, Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, sponsored Craig’s team, who was tragically killed in a freak racing accident in August 2008. He was held in such high regard both as a racer and as a man, that the team and circuit owners decided to commission the replica in his memory. The intention is to replace it with a bronze piece in the future.

The bike above could be described as giant, rather than supersized, whereas the next car does look like it has been supersized – if you remember the 2004 film Super Size Me.

A unique car by Erwin Wurm

A unique car by Erwin Wurm

Polystyrene foam and polyurethane expanding foam were, again, used to create this unique-looking car. Hand tools were used to smooth and shape the rounded contours and deep folds.
Erwin Wurm, an Austrian artist and sculptor, created a number of cars in a similar style and even went as far as producing a house with very similar rounded proportions. (via one minute sculpture)

Words like “flowing lines”, “aerodynamically designed” and “with a graceful beauty” are often used in the media, to describe the shape of a car. These words could hardly be used in this case, but what do you expect when you pimp your ride with polystyrene ?

Post a Comment


  1. M Chaves

    Posted April 9, 2010 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    hello! greetings to all.
    We were very pleased to see you appreciate our work, and to see it jump overseas, thanks very much.
    A part of the information is not quite exact…

    As you mentioned, this sculpture is a scale Model; but it has never been a plan to pass it to bronze. It has always been intended to be made of diverse Portuguese marble stones, and that’s what the hand painted colours simulate:
    This is not a replica; this is a synthesis, although it looks so real.

    It was conceived and handcrafted by the Portuguese Sculptress PAULA HESPANHA and is the focal part of a large dimension (672 by 295 ft) landscape sculpture by Architect MANUEL PEDRO FERREIRA CHAVES.
    A 3D preview of the complete monument is available online in:

    The EPS model took aprox. 900 hours to finish.
    There is only one small metal structure in the lower part. The rest is massive high density EPS blocks, not assembled with glue.
    It was sanded, then coated with stone powder (not plaster).

    If this work should be finished (as track owners suspended its production for an undetermined period), it will be the only (we believe), in the world, made of stone, representing a motorcycle and the rider.

    This work comes after 2008, PAULA HESPANHA´s “Tribute to the Algarve canned-fish-industry Workers”. This finished work in marble stone can be seen in:

    PAULA HESPANHA has also been working with EPS on large figures for ephemeral purposes, for a long time. Maybe you would like to publish it.
    Thanks for your attention.

  2. Fran

    Posted April 9, 2010 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Thank you Manuel for your comments and information related to the motorcycle sculpture. I saw the piece at first hand and can appreciate the work that went into creating it. It is a very eye-catching and has a lot of detail.
    I hope at some stage in the future that it is produced in stone, I’m sure it will be equally impressive.