The lines, colors and imagery surrounding some of history’s most famous racecars is enough to intrigue a viewer.
But Phillip Dutton-White is concerned not just with capturing the detail of an automobile. Rather, his responsibility was unveiling the personality of the man who drove it.
“Anything for me with art is about emotion. If I don’t get upset, or feel something coming back at me, it doesn’t work for me,” he said.
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Dutton-White has taken his love for fine, classic automobiles and an indelible eye for art to create bombastic monuments to racing’s legends.
His five original works will form the centerpiece of a new exhibition “A Century of Speed,” commemorating the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. The exhibition is now showing in downtown Indianapolis’ Gallery Forty-Two, founded and owned by the Hunter family of Lamb Lake.
“I do portraiture, and portraiture is a word that’s used for people, doing a painting of people. But cars are like people, so I want to make it just as powerful,” he said.
Though he was born in Great Britain and currently lives in Spain, Dutton-White has roots in central Indiana. While working as a designer for Allison Transmission on its facilities around the globe, he often was back in Indianapolis.
An artist and designer, he has worked on projects all over the world. He’s designed facilities for Fortune 500 companies, created sleek resorts in China and lectured about art in Qatar.
Throughout his life, Dutton-White had shown an interest in painting but started working more seriously on his own projects in 2003 after a heart illness.
Dutton-White started with portraiture, including a series on Michelin three-star chefs including the Roux Brothers, Pierre Gagnaire and Guy Savoy. That work naturally progressed to doing stylized pieces of famous racecar drivers throughout history.
“I’ve always loved cars,” he said. “So I had the portraiture, the cars that I love anyway, and then I had the graphics that goes back to my work in graphic design,” he said. “Within a painting, I have all of those things.”
The paintings hanging in Gallery Forty-Two exemplify that. Each work shows a famous car — Ferrari 312, Bentley Brooklands, Lotus — and the face of its driver. Drivers such as Italian racer Lorenzo Bandini, American Wilbur Shaw and Brit Jim Clark, one of Dutton-White’s heroes as a child, prominently stare out from the canvas.
Details about each driver’s life is included. Dutton-White painted the years and races he won, including Indianapolis 500 winners. Many had nicknames, which he worked into the tableau as well.
“There’s always an emotional link for me with their artwork,” he said. “I’m trying to do a little bit more than just a painting.”
Dutton-White’s approach was a natural fit for Gallery Forty-Two and its “A Century of Speed” exhibition, said partner Curt Hunter. Ten artists are included in the show, which showcases racing through the decades, as well as Indianapolis’ relationship to it.
Some are from central Indiana, including Gary Dausch and Pat Mack. Others come from around the country and the world.
Dutton-White was connected to the show through a former client, Ron Riffel. Riffel suggested he come to Indianapolis for an event and show his paintings. Working together, they found Gallery Forty-Two.
At a reception on May 6, Dutton-White was able to meet in the gallery and see his work hanging there for the first time.
“It means a lot to me with the connections I have from Indy previously in my life,” he said. “I’m really passionate about what I do. I cry at the drop of a hat.”