Growing up in the UK during the 70s and 80s was like living in a supermarket filled with pop art, pop music and candy coated atom bombs. Colour TV and pop culture was the perfect way to escape from all the grey politics and post war economics. As children from nuclear families, we needed a fantasy world to distract us from our harsh reality and the creative industry never failed to deliver. From street fashion to comic books and movies, there was never a dull moment in the UK, as fads came and went like buses, we had a wonderful pop culture that was constantly changing as often as the weather. In a 10 year period, I went from being a long haired 7 year old in flares to a punk in doctor marten boots, then a rude boy with a skinhead, a mod in a two tone suit and finally a football casual in Fila tops and Lacoste polo shirts.
There was also a competitive frenzy taking place between the various creators of pop reinvention, that fuelled my imagination for many years and still does to some extent. Many artists and pop stars quite literally, changed their identity time and time again, fought for freedom of expression, and brought illumination to the depths of our often murky lives. This chameleonic approach to creativity was obviously driven by a need to maintain audience attention, keep the record company’s cash flowing and stay ahead of the competition, as it was a case of adapt quickly or die and become a forgotten penniless has-been. However, as a child with a vivid imagination, the music scene was like a waterfall in a desert. Every new style of music or new fashion craze seemed to take hold of the youth culture and spread like a wild fire. At times, it was as if a social experiment was taking place.
At 16, I left my childhood world of cartoon characters and comic book heroes behind me and set off to find my true calling at art school, and in the process I discovered both a new identity of my own and started out on the path to accomplishing my most important work as a creative and an image maker. While I was at art school, I had explored a wide variety of processes and techniques, as well as developing a body of work with a personal vibe of its own. But, being a street savvy working class kid meant that I had to ignore my tutor’s advice to master a particular style or genre, because I knew that once I walked out the door, I would need to quickly adapt to market trends in order to survive. Since leaving University in 1989, I’ve spent 3 decades in the creative industry, working in everything from architecture and interior design through to advertising and TV campaigns, and I’ve become an archetypal example of the reinvention mythology, as I’ve had to continuously adapt my style and creative process in order to earn a living and guarantee I can keep doing what I do best.
I am constantly weaving together my accumulated knowledge with creativity, while learning new techniques and balancing continuity with changes in style, as well as crafting new ideas that are almost always deeply rooted in earlier chapters of my life experiences and previous activities in my work. There’s no denying the appeal of reinvention through narratives in my artwork, especially after 35 years of making beautiful images and turning average businessmen into cool people, through slick branding and conceptual advertising. By confronting uncharted territory in my imagination and the imperative to forge ahead into new chapters or styles of working, I feel I have gained a sense of freedom through the process of doing what I do and I’ve finally reached a point where I can say whatever I need to say in my work and express my messages in whatever style the communication requires.
Radcliffe has lived and worked in many places around the world, including Barcelona, New York, South Africa and the UK. His artworks and images have sold in exhibitions in Barcelona, Johannesburg, New York, Lisbon and throughout the UK. He currently lives and works between the UK and Portugal.