The images of Ayrton Senna and record race winner Lewis Hamilton you see above aren't actually images at all. They're hyper-realistic paintings of the F1 greats of past and present. And while the detail, accuracy and vibrance of the artwork are remarkable in itself, what makes them even more noteworthy is the fact that they're painted by a young Malaysian artist from Ipoh, Perak; a town more frequently associated with good eats than art as fine as this.
On a given day, a given circumstance, you think you have a limit. And you then go for this limit and you touch this limit, and you think, 'Okay, this is the limit.' As soon as you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high
Karwai Chan cites this famous quote from the late Ayrton Senna as the driving force behind her recent flurry of motorsports-inspired oil paintings. An early painting of the Brazilian legend propelled Chan's artwork to fame and she has not looked back since, with the instantly recognisable faces (or helmets) of Hamilton and four-time world champion Sebastien Vettel also making their way onto her canvas along the way.
Chan's paintings of Senna have transcended the realms of fan art, with some of them finding a home on the walls of the McLaren Kuala Lumpur showroom as a homage to the British marque's most iconic driver in its racing history.
The full-time contemporary artist, who has been painting professionally since the age of 18, also made local headlines when she honoured Malaysian prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin and health director general Noor Hisham Abdullah through her art in the heat of the country's battle against the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
In terms of F1 as a subject of interest, Chan admits that she is "still learning the technical and performance terms about cars and how they function, inclusive of driving skills and techniques like Senna’s throttle inputs". That said, she is still very well versed with cars beyond the F1 grid.
Asked if she had any dream cars in mind, Chan was quick to point out the Honda NSX due to Senna's well-documented involvement in its development. Her list of desired rides gets even more interesting from there, with the Shelby GT500, Mercedes G63, Porsche 911 GT2 RS and LaFerrari completing a star-studded five-car dream garage.
"My story has just begun, so I’m looking forward to own at least one of my dream cars in the near future."