Viva Johnny Vegas – engineering firm teams up with comic

Luke Parker (Acres), Johnny Vegas, Liam Chambers and Connor Grace (both Acres)

Melbourne-based Acres Engineering, best known for its work in the aerospace, rail and automotive industries, has a new niche after teaming up with much-loved entertainer Johnny Vegas for his new exhibition at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery.

Vegas has collaborated with the esteemed Wirral artist Emma Rodgers on a joint exhibition titled Metamorphosis – an apt title, given he graduated in art and ceramics at the University of Middlesex three decades ago.

Indeed, he calls it his “rebirth”.

Both artists have presented two-dimensional pieces as well as sculptures in bronze, clay, and 3D printing, all unified by the theme of flight.

One of Vegas’s artworks featured angels perched on metal RSJs, which provided a contrasting finish that completed the display.

However, the RSJs were too heavy, so after Rodgers suggested they could mix sculptural materials Vegas reached out to Acres to create replicas of the RSJs from a thinner, lighter material, with the condition that they retained the same industrial appearance as the original pieces.

Vegas visited Acres on two occasions to communicate his requirements and after a number of variants testing out different thickness of material, the perfect balance of weight vs aesthetics vs functionality was found.

Vegas even joined in with the team during the final manufacture.

Luke Parker, managing director at Acres Engineering, said: “We are proud that Johnny selected Acres to work with on this important project so close to his heart. Johnny was really impressed with our facilities, our craftsmanship and most importantly our team.

“It was great to see him getting so involved and engaged but he’s a born entertainer as well as an incredibly talented artist so we had a tonne of fun along the way. We look forward to working with Johnny in the future on bigger projects – watch this space!”

Vegags’s work draws massively from his experiences of living with ADHD which he describes as an ‘accursed blessing’, with concepts of flight, faith, and fear of failure prominent.

As he put the finishing touches to the display at The Walker, Vegas was understandably proud and a little emotional.

He said: “I think I’m going to cry… but they’ll be good tears.

“I’m living my best life right now and I can’t tell you what it means to be exhibiting here at The Walker. I want to give a massive shout to Luke and the team at Acres. They’re a family firm and that means a lot to me, I wish my dad [Laurence Pennington, who died from cancer in 2017] could walk in here with me and see this.

“He used to get grief when I was at art school because ‘your lad’s doing pottery’ but he had a deep appreciation for anything creative, and for breaking free from social expectations. He would have absolutely loved it. I hope to be able to nip down to Acres with Emma to show her the range of tech and skills the team has because they’ve helped to make this possible after Emma’s bright idea to mix sculptural materials – see you soon team!”

The exhibition at the Walker will be open from April 30, 2024, to March 31, 2025. Additionally, a selling exhibition will take place at the Bluecoat Display Centre, starting Wednesday, May 3, and concluding on Saturday, June 15.