In a nondescript, graffitied low-rise in London’s East End, extraordinary things are happening. Behind unmarked double doors, Benedict Radcliffe is transforming plain old mild steel rod into three-dimensional, four-wheeled pieces of ethereal art; cutting, bending, welding and painting to create fluorescent sculptures that widen your eyes and baffle your brain.
You might well have seen some of Radcliffe’s automotive spectres in photographs: a bright orange Lamborghini Countach, a brilliant white Subaru Impreza P1 or a neon pink Range Rover Evoque, each seemingly drawn in Photoshop and then dragged and dropped onto a street scene, but in fact they’re very much real. In Heathrow’s Terminal 2, you may well have spotted his London taxi – an orange Austin FX4 commissioned by the airport to represent modern Britain. All are instantly recognisable cars, distilled into minimalist, full-scale wireframes; more air than there.
While studying at Glasgow’s Mackintosh School of Architecture, Radcliffe was trained in fabrication and welding by Andy Scott, creator of the ‘Heavy Horse’ wireframe and 30m horse heads sculpture ‘The Kelpies’ that tower over the M8 and M9 motorways respectively. A year after graduating in 2004, Radcliffe created ‘Modern Japanese Classic’ – the Impreza wireframe – as part of a personal exhibition. Too large to fit inside the venue, it was ‘parked’ on the street outside, dazzling among the dreich of Glasgow’s urban grime. And with that, his signature style was born.
Radcliffe’s studio, just off Brick Lane, is dominated by a central ‘datum table’ upon which he builds his wireframe cars, and the walls are lined with a gigantic bicycle frame, a 1:1 wireframe Honda Gold Wing motorcycle he displayed in the V&A Museum in 2012 and full-scale blueprints of his next project, a Ferrari F40.