The enduring memory of Ayrton Senna as a sports hero to the world turned a mother’s intimate request quickly into a project intended to be embraced by the general public.
As soon as Lalalli accomplished the creation of a smaller-scale, aesthetically traditional version of Ayrton Senna’s bust, as commissioned by the driver’s mother, the Senna family, through Senna Brands, decided to enlarge the piece in order to share it for free with Ayrton’s fans at the Interlagos race track. In a sense, they meant it as a retribution to the constant love the driver and his family have been receiving since 1984, when he made his Formula One debut under the Toleman team.
For Lalalli Senna, that unfolding has allowed a more personal perspective, based on her recollections of her three-time champion uncle. From an artistic point of view, Lalalli also sought to express what meanings a 21st century bust could bring, especially by bringing together family feelings and passions from the stands. “I learnt that there’s a Greek concept for the verb ‘to look’ that means ‘to shed light with the eyes’. According to some ancient theories, this is also able to generate a communion in which, by being bathed in this light, the object also transforms the beholder himself. That was the image I was looking for.”
As soon as it was decided that the piece would be 3.5 metres high in order to dominate a large, flat area around it, Lalalli began working in her studio on white material. “I wasn’t 100 percent convinced by the outcome of the original bust, which had already been delivered. So I decided to scan it and began to manipulate the image digitally to get it where I wanted it to be. I wasn’t convinced until the day I looked at that giant face, from the scaffolding where I was standing, and I had the feeling that Ayrton could see me. There I realised that I still remembered him, exactly as I saw him when I was a little girl, after years of not being able to, as a consequence of that tragic loss. There, I felt that I had passed on the Ayrton that I kept inside me, with my energy. It moved me, and then I felt that I was finally ready.”
There, I felt that I had passed on the Ayrton that I kept inside me, with my energy.
Casting the mirrored material at Fundiart in Piracicaba-SP also proved to be another challenge, since its mirroring properties altered the features of the work by eliminating the light and dark patterns of the original sculpture. To correct that, Lalalli finalised the work by painting certain parts of the bust with bitumen, giving it the contrasts it needed to make Ayrton’s physiognomy recognisable. The task completed exactly the week that “Our Senna” was inaugurated at the José Carlos Pace Autodrome, in Interlagos, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Brazilian Grand Prix.
At the track where the driver got unforgettable victories in 1991 and 1993, the aluminium sculpture gathered thousands of fans, who praised the work’s obvious resemblance to their idol. The image of the bust was transmitted to more than countries and was reproduced and printed in a wide variety of international press such as TV Globo, Sky Sports Italia and the BBC.
At the same event, the Senna family presented a smaller replica of the work to a famous Ayrton fan, the British driver Lewis Hamilton, a seven-time world champion. The gift was a gesture of gratitude for Hamilton’s public devotion and recognition of the Brazilian driver’s sporting legacy. “He has always supported Ayrton publicly and is a great spokesman for his legacy,” emphasises Lalalli.
With “Nosso Senna” finally installed at Interlagos, the option for aluminium proved to be the right choice. The material’s ability to reflect light and image served the artist’s main intention: to show that Ayrton’s two dimensions – the public and the intimate – were based equally on an intense exchange with everyone who came close to the sportsman.
“I chose the mirror to symbolise two aspects of Ayrton that for me are fundamental: firstly, his generous personality, since he always treated others as equals,” says Lalalli. “If he were here, he would certainly be reflecting and returning people’s affection, and in a way the sculpture does that for him: it ‘looks back to us’, it returns what it receives. The second aspect comprises the symbolic role and the collective dimension that his public identity still projects to this day. To a great many, Ayrton embodies the figure of the hero who represented the luminous aspects of national identity, winning with grit and values to take Brazil to the top. My idea was to represent to everyone of his fans that that trait of his is alive within us. Looking at him means inevitably seeing yourself and connecting with this luminous dimension of the hero with your own inner energy, thus representing the values that inspired Ayrton in everything he did.”
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