Isabell Mayrhofer of Unique & Limited spills the technological beans about 3D automotive art and historical moments.
CarArtSpot recently visited the Retromobile in Paris. Amongst the automotive artists exhibiting their work, was Unique & Limited which stood out for their large photo print of a Bugatti pit stop taken from above. An intriguing photo, since photos from that angle are only taken nowadays at F1 races and were not technically possible 50 years ago in the Bugatti era.
Unique & Limited work is very different from other automotive artists at Retromobile. How was your work received?
It was a mix. Some people really liked it and the fact that it is something new on the market, which always helps revive the art industry. But some people struggle with which category to place it in.
Digital art in itself has been under some dispute by some groups such as AFAS. Is this something you encounter?
Well we actually tried to contact AFAS to become a member but they replied to say that they are kind of old fashioned and only really want to have artists in the same category. I think we will get there oneday but it may take some time.
Is Unique & Limited the first in the type of art which you are creating?
Yes, so far we have only come across two or three artists who do something similar. Digital art is quite broad and there are lots of rendered images which are displayed but none like ours.
What is the mission of Unique & Limited?
Basically we want to travel back in time and give history a way of looking at it in a way it deserves to be remembered. Usually historical moments (especially from the 30’s) are all black and white and quite grainy. The stories behind them are just as interesting as the races of today and we want to capture those moments and give them the quality and respect they deserve.
But why is that important? There are lots books with grainy photo’s which have some charm already?
Of course but a car like, say the Ferrari 250 GTO is one of the most expensive cars these days and many people value this kind of car and its’ history. There are only 39 of them, so they are limited, special and very beautiful in their own way. We want to make sure they get the attention they already have but improve it and make it as beautiful as it can be.
Do you consider those cars to be art in itself?
Yes. The thing is the cars themselves require the main work. We build them exactly the way they were with all their dents and dirt and scratches. You basically cannot see them in that kind of condition anymore today because all the cars have been restored and polished to perfection, shiny and almost brand new looking, even though they are not. I always like to compare them to people because we try to fake our scars and marks even though there is no way you can look like 20 if you are 50. It doesn’t work that way. The great thing about this technology is that you dan basically do anything with it. Especially looking at these historical moments from a different perspective. That’s also what we try to do. Every image you see is sort of captured in a way that was technically not possible back then. People see our images and look at them for about ten minutes and can’t work out why they look like a photograph when it is physically not possible to be a photograph.
Like the Bugatti T35 which is my favourite.
Yes and that’s a great example because although we know that we have this view today in the Formula 1 races when they stop at the pit stops, back then it wasn’t possible. It’s the same for our work on the Silver Arrows where you are basically standing on the road and you have the cars coming at you. If you were the photographer, it would have been your last picture. It’s that kind of look that makes you feel like you are drawn into the scene because you become a part of it.
Unique & Limited tells a full story with just one photo and you do a perfect job in your marketing activities. I was surprised to see that you are creating a whole storyboard for your art.
Yes. It’s necessary and you can actually compare it to a movie production because you have to have a certain concept before you can actually start the work, due to the scale we work from. It’s a lot of work. We have to get all the details right. Everything of the car needs to be modelled in 3D and that takes a lot of work. For example the Bugatti which was modelled from the top; we had to make sure that everything was perfect from the top but if you were to rotate the camera and maybe look from the underneath, the car wouldn’t look the same. This is because we know you wouldn’t see it from that angle and so didn’t spend much time on modelling it. This is why you need to have a concept first, so that you know exactly which parts of the car need to be modelled. And it’s the same for the photoshoots. You have to know where the car is and what the people are going to be doing in order to actually do the photoshoot. We use Hollywood backgrounds aswell. We worked for Lucas Film. So we know what the standards are there and it’s pretty much the same production work. You have to have everything set up and know how many people you need to hire and give them instructions as to what they need to do. You need to guide them.
So it is actually like doing a movie shoot because everything has to match; the fashion, the clothing, the tools etc.
Yes and we are actually quite fortunate to have good connections to the ‘The Hollywood of the East’, a big movie studio which has this huge department of period costumes and props that we can rent.
How do you pick the topics?
It depends. We always try to have some kind of theme such as upcoming anniversaries. Last year we did the Battle of Britain. Some sort of event which we can contribute something to. People approach us and ask if we are going to do a theme. We have a list of cars which are the most outstanding ones within the classic car industry and a long list of things we can and want to do but it’s always a matter of time and funding.
You are quite unique if you compare yourselves to other artists at Retromobile.
Yes and no. We have to support ourselves because we are still in our start up phase. We only just started working officially as Unique & Limited last year. So compared to other artists, we do the same but the difference is that we are a group of 5 or 6 people.
You picture historical events which need to be as accurate as possible but with your own twist to it.
Exactly. Authenticity and accuracy is key to every image. So we do spend a lot of time making sure we have all the correct details, enough reference images for the car and details for the story and background. It takes a lot of time and work before we can actually start modelling the car. Around a 1000 working hours just to get the modelling done. Other artists maybe work solo painting one image. So there is quite a difference.
Does it help you to challenge each other? What kind of synergy do you have for each project?
The great thing is that everyone in our team has their own specialty. We all bring in something that each of us is really good at. It all comes together and we couldn’t do our work without each other.
What is the definition of art in the view of Unique & Limited?
Well I don’t think that art can be defined. There are so many different types of art and I don’t think you can really put a label on it. We struggle with that because so many people call our work photography, which it is not. Then they call it a painting, which it is not. There is no label for it. We always say it is a mix of photography and computer generated imagery or 3D artwork.
I try to define artwork by the emotion and feeling it conveys to the viewer. Your image of the Bugatti and the setting definitely does that.
Thank you. That’s the great thing about this technology, you can use it for everything. Although we don’t just want to make car art, cars are a passion and there is a lot of passion behind our work. We don’t just do it to earn money. There is a lot of work involved and you have to enjoy it. We do and we also have a very broad vision.
Have you considered taking a Bugatti or a Ferrari and creating something of a more fantasy setting?
We have been approached about this and people would love to see the more newer cars in such a setting or in a nice environment. We think there is no point in doing this because you can actually take the car and put it in a nice environment and take a photo of it. We wouldn’t say no to a more fantasy setting but it should be a project which someone wants to do and where we have support. There are people who know everything about cars and drivers and can tell us very interesting stories. I’ve had so many customers come up during exhibitions and look at our work and tell us really interesting stories about the cars and its’ history.
What is the dream of Unique & Limited.
One of our specialities is creating unique moments. Specific moments which happened back in history when no-one really knows what happened, or there are not many images to show the facts. We want to use our technology to change this and show what happened. It could be anything. Maybe it’s the starting of a big company moment or a beloved family member who did something heroic back in the days and they want to capture that moment in an art way. Kings and Queens have always had paintings of themselves. It’s even possible to recreate faces and use the technology to put it into a scene. There are great possibilities.
While you are capturing one specific moment, have you ever considered making short movies?
We do have ideas that we are playing around with but it’s different kind of work. Right now it’s only an idea which may materialize in the future. We don’t rule anything out.
So there are no limits to Unique & Limited?
Exactly. We were actually thinking at some point to change our name to Unique Unlimited. Our ideas are unlimited but the work we do is limited to limited editions.
To see more work by Unique & Limited, please visit their website: http://www.unique-limited.com/services/