Velocipedia – Extreme Cycle Art

 If Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) had drawn bikes I’m sure they would look something like this guy’s Gianluca Gimini.

(Above: The five physical bikes built by Fikas Bikes of Australia for the exhibition)

Gianluca was born in 1983, in Italy but has lived in Los Angeles and Shanghai. As well designing the bikes, as a graphic designer he has created many new company identities. He also teaches design at The University of Ferrara and Photoshop at a High School in Bologna. I thought I was busy juggling a day job in sales with freelance writing.

He designed the bikes as part of his velocipedia project which became an exhibition at MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Tasmania, Australia. As well as displaying the numerous drawings, five bike sculptures were commissioned for display and built by Fikas Bikes in Australia. One of the bikes is actually ridable and was demonstrated/ridden/test-piloted (delete as appropriate)  by  Daniel Licastro of Fikas. We at Veloballs were kind of hoping they were all were ridable and in production – our credit cards were out and ready, but unfortunately, they weren’t.     

His artwork came about by him giving a pad and pencil to hundreds of people aged between three and eighty-eight, then asking them to draw a bike from memory. Some could, some clearly could not. The designs he drew are based on the latter.  Around twenty five percent of the people gave up when they realised it wasn’t as easy as it sounded and I assume screwed up the paper. Gianluca didn’t ridicule the artists but honoured them by turning their drawings into artworks which some as mentioned actually got built for the exhibition.     

(The Twelve Renderings on display at MONA – Tasmania)

I was intrigued by the works and contacted Gianluca, I first asked when he started the project.

“I started in 2009 and kept collecting actively until 2016 when I finally decided to do my part of the job and make those renderings. After Velocipedia went viral I started to receive spontanous submissions of bike sketches.”

Which came first, the concept of the drawings or the idea for an exhibition?

The artist explained – “A brilliant curator at MONA (by the name Pippa Mott) contacted me after seeing Velocipedia online. Together we worked on bringing five of the renderings to life. Five bikes were manufactured by FIKAS bikes in 2019 and were on show at MONA between May and September 2019. The exhibit was called Gorillas in our Midst. It featured Velocipedia (109 reproductions of sketches and 12 printed renderings) and Velocipedia IRL (the five physical 1:1 bikes). Both the art and the bikes are now part of the museum’s permanent collection.”

After he had created velocipedia Gianluca found that a bike sketch test was a legitimate test that had been in use since the second half of the twentieth century.

“After Velocipedia went viral I was informed that the bicycle sketch test is something that has been known to psychologists since the 1950’s at least. They call it ‘the illusion of knowledge’ and it is meant to prove to participants how our brains trick us into a false sense of confidence regarding our degree of knowledge of the things that surround us. So if this is the lesson that a participant takes home I think Velocipedia also offers a couple of additional lessons. To me -as a collector of flawed sketches- this experiment taught me how different it is to look at one failed bike drawing and to look at a few hundred. Together they bring forth creativity and inventiveness. As a designer I realized I could never come up with so many variations on a bicycle. So this change in perspective highlighted their beauty to my eyes and that is why I thought that by reinterpreting my favourite flawed sketches as realistic images I could possibly expose their beauty to everyone else too.”

Gianluca, is clearly an excellent graphic designer and artist, the artworks and the subsequent exhibition are to my knowledge, both unique and if I’m ever in Hobart, Tasmania (unlikely I know, but who knows) I will visit the MONA Museum and see these wonderful creations in the metal.

All images courtesy of MONA – Photographer – Jesse Hunniford, Curator – Pippa Mott   

And thanks to Gianluca Gimini for taking time out from his busy schedule to talk to Simon Elson.