Art and memorabilia: December 2017

Old boards and cheap paints make for unusually rich results

It takes a special eye to see beauty in a grubby electric drill or a worn hacksaw. Yet alongside images of vintage drag bikes or dirt-track riders, such tools are one focus of Hans Sures’ art.

With a background in commercial art and advertising, Hans’s own interests often had to take a back seat to commerce. London-based since graduating from art college in Germany in the 1990s, he also works in the USA – including commissions for Carroll Shelby – but now he is making his art available in print form. His subjects range across bikes, bikers and racing cars to portraits and armoured knights, and he has developed an unusual technique.

“I paint on MDF board,” he explains. “I paint a ‘dirty’ layer, then sand it down, varnish it and paint onto that with cheap acrylics, which are a bit translucent.”

Painted on a large scale, the images highlight the aged, worn quality of the tools. “Metal is remarkably easy to paint,” he says casually. Cars too he paints onto MDF. “I find modern cars harder, with so much sponsorship. I like to see what the thing is made from.” Like his drag bikes, almost monochrome, with the sheen of old muck recently cleaned. “I did some bike drag racing myself in my 20s,” he explains, “and I’m kind of happy they’re not so fashionable.”

Hans likes to start with specially taken photos which allow him to manipulate the light, and he recently lined up a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine to paint large-scale. “But I need a client for that!” Meanwhile he is looking for more old tools on eBay. “That takes longer than painting them!”