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Benedict Radcliffe: Instagram changed my work completely


Ever since cars have been around, they have made for some popular art. Some cars are called Ďart carsí and have wild paint schemes. Sometimes, cars or car designs are simply pieces of art in their own right. But sculptures of cars had never really caught on. That is, until London based artist Benedict Radcliffe started making life size sculptures of cars made from brightly coloured wireframes. Simplified representations of iconic shapes that highlight their main features.

Benedict, your wire frame shapes have become almost as iconic as the cars they represent. How did you come up with the idea and when did you start working on the first one?

Before I made the first car, Iíd had a lot of experience in shaping metal due to my professional background. I used to work for a manufacturer, building metal balconies and staircases when I was studying. Besides the practical application, every now and again, artists would ask us to create something for them. After a while, I moved on to making my own artworks, and I started making two dimensional representations of cars and motorbikes. As I gained more experience, I made the first three-dimensional model which was a white Subaru Impreza WRX.

An Impreza WRX? A very interesting and very specific choice.

(Laughs) Yes, it was. It dates back to the place where I grew up, in Kent. The car was very popular there, because it was really fast and accessible for younger people. So, there was a lot of joyriding. I also grew up watching rally cars and the Impreza was always an Icon.

Returning to your background. You donít seem to be taking a classical arts approach? Did you study art or anything?

Funnily enough, no. Iím an architect by education actually. I started my studies a bit late, I was 21, I believe, and Iíd been working in construction before I started studying. To pay for my course, I started working at the manufacturing company as I mentioned earlier, and that was also where I learned how to weld and work with metal. Later, when I started to draw my first houses, I would spend ages drawing a car on the driveway of the house to give the house scale. (Laughs)

What is the process for making one of these cars?

I used to search for car blueprints on the internet like I did for the Subaru, but they were always a little rough. In the last two years, Iíve been working with a company that actually scans the cars for me, so I have all the exact details correct. After the scanning stage, everything becomes really analogue. I have a big table in my workshop where I build a structure and start building the frame bit by bit. The frame itself is made from 10mm thick bars made of mild steel. Itís a really sturdy material that can support the weight of the sculpture but doesnít distort when you bend it or apply heat. The process can take three weeks if we work with a crew of people, as we did with the Rambo Lambo recently. But it can also take a few months if I do it alone.

We discovered your work on Instagram. Is social media having a big influence on the way you work?

Yes, absolutely. Since I started an Instagram account, the way my business works has changed completely. Itís very easy for people to get in touch with me. The Lancia Delta I made for Eugenio Amos, who is creating the newly inspired version of the Delta, the futurist, came entirely through Instagram and there are many other examples as well.

The cars you make are hand-crafted but often very angular. Would a classic car be even better-suited to being transformed into one of your sculptures?

Actually, quite the opposite. Because classic cars have very flowing and organic lines, theyíre quite hard to reproduce, because their curved shapes and lack of highlighted edges. And thatís why Iíve never done a Porsche, for instance, because the front headlights have no real edges. So, in order to build those, I would have to create lines where there are none which goes against the principle of the artwork. I am doing a 935-slant nose though, actually.

Youíve also been doing other projects besides the cars, such as a skate bowl and a double ended VW Golf IV? Are you broadening your scope with this?

Well Iím an artist so Iím always trying new things. The skate bowl was really fun to make because it kind of dates back to my architecture background, and it really was a piece of interior design. The other projects are also very much focused on crafting things like welding two ends of a VW Golf together. But the cars are important to me from a business standpoint, because theyíre selling really well, and in the end, artists also have bills to pay.

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