Tess Radcliffe is interested in the overlooked aspects of the everyday and the sense of surprise, surrealism, comedy, beauty, pathos, absurdity and tragedy found all around us.
She creates digital films and animations with electronic music where layers of editing, distortion and repetition accentuate a mesmerising, otherworldly quality. She is particularly drawn to areas where the urban and the rural or natural world intersect.
Tess used the residency to research and identify works from The New Art Gallery’s Collections which inspired a new body of work incorporating photographic images, films and sounds recorded on daily walks. The outcome is a body of work created specifically to share on social media, forming a visual diary of the residency.
Outside In supports artists who face significant barriers to the art world due to heath, disability, isolation or social circumstances. The New Art Gallery has partnered with them to offer two online residency opportunities. Following open submission, the two artists selected for remote residences are Tess Radcliffe (15 February – 28 March) and Corinne (29 March – 9 May).
Both will be supported to create new work from home, sharing their practices with online audiences. Each artist will receive a fee, ongoing support from both organisations and a virtual studio visit from an external artist or curator.
I’m interested in the simple, bold designs of everyday street furniture within landscape. The abstract minimalism of telegraph poles, street lights, steel railings, tv aerials , electricity boxes, metal benches, and so on, create a striking contrast to the softer, organic and more detailed forms of nature and decorative design-work. Due to its purpose, street furniture is utilitarian and hard-wearing and has a more industrial, brutalist image. Yet, although it is primarily robust and uniform, it is also incredibly well-designed and I think that’s why it makes for an impactful subject for photography and film. I have a collection of photographs that I have taken of street furniture since the first lockdown last year and because of this I wanted the final film I produced for my remote residency to focus on this aspect of my work.
Abstract painting and sculpture has undoubtedly informed the way I view, photograph and film street architecture. Estelle Thompson is an artist originally from Walsall whose abstract paintings feature prominently in The New Art Gallery’s Collections, and which I particularly admire for their geometry, grid-like structures and limited colour palette. In this vein, I aim to isolate and emphasise the formal qualities of street furniture through focusing on basic lines and shapes, the use of repetition, and the reduction of colour and tone to create powerful contrasts.
In ‘Dizzy Heights’ I wanted to highlight the overlooked elements within our ordinary, outdoor environment. I hoped to convey the unsteady sense of looking upwards to the very tip of the telegraph pole at its highest point, and to explore how the telegraph wires span outwards into expansive rays. Abstract art revolutionised the way we look at landscape, so I literally and deliberately took a different view in Dizzy Heights.
Tess Radcliffe, 24 March 2021
“Electric Landscape (A View from Pelsall Common) was created partly in response to the recent news that the lockdown restrictions are in the process of being lifted in England which inevitably leads to a rise in road traffic and congestion. The view from Pelsall Common in the evening is once again alight with the warm glow of car headlights, traffic lights and street lights, which are reflected on the rippling surface of the dark pool water which is surrounded by trees and grasslands.
Overall my larger body of work is concerned with landscape, (where the ‘natural’ landscape meets the urban), and with the visual culture and production techniques of electronic music. In this vein, I’m interested in the relationship between abstraction and landscape, and how abstraction revolutionised perceptions and representations of landscape. Victor Pasmore’s Points of Contact 29 (1979) in The New Art Gallery Walsall’s Collections is of particular interest as Pasmore pioneered the development of abstraction in the UK in the 1940s and 50s, having previously painted lyrical landscapes and still life. I think I identify with aspects of his life too; he had to take an administrative job and studied art at night school. For financial reasons I left school at 16 to do a YTS at J. H. Carter Chains Ltd in the Butts in Walsall. I’m also playing with the idea of the earliest British abstract artists’ pilgrimage to St Ives to study the light. I also find inspiration in light effects including electric light”.
Tess Radcliffe, 16 March 2021
“I encountered this handsome, muscular, glossy black Raven living in a tree next to a car park beside a fast food takeaway. His home was near to an industrial estate and busy roads with pockets of wasteland and scrubland surrounding it. He was wandering about the car park scavenging for scraps of food that humans had discarded. He observed me watching him as he took refuge on top of a street light in the car park. As he called out I was struck by his power, magnificent black plumage and the physicality of his call, the effort of which involved his entire body. (I am generally fascinated by the subtle ways birds of all varieties use their bodies in different ways – including their tails, their wings, and snapping their beaks to create different rhythms and effects – to communicate as they sing and call out). As I admired the Raven, I recalled the fluent sketch of the Eagle by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska who captured both the predatory power and the fragility of their existence.”
Tess Radcliffe, 16 February 2021
“This film hopes to capture the sense of imminent Spring I feel at this time of year, when the trees are still bare but there is an atmosphere of new growth and energy present in the air. The individual forms and particularities of different tree species are more visible, as they stand as monochrome sketches silhouetted against the sky.
I’m interested in how trees affect our wellbeing in positive ways, and the ways in which trees have been associated with rituals and with healing properties. Trees have a rich historical and cultural symbolism and specific tree species and their particular qualities are often assigned special meaning. The Weeping Willow tree is believed to have feminine powers, because it grows close to water, which enables us to express and release deep emotions, to remain flexible, and to rejuvenate.
There are a number of enormous trees in Pelsall, Shelfield and Aldridge, some of which are protected due to their significant age and size and because they are a rare species and form a vital part of the ecology. This large Weeping Willow tree stands at the edge of a pond on Pelsall common as part of a nature reserve, providing shelter and protection for birds which live and feed on the waters”.
Tess Radcliffe, 23 February 2021
“I was really taken with the print Ladywood by Christiane Baumgartner, and I’m interested in how the artist embraces technology and industrial process to create these beautiful, handcrafted woodcuts of landscape.
This short film on the theme of water explores the complexities of landscape, particularly in and around where l live in Pelsall. Three large pools border the adjacent areas of Shelfield and Aldridge which form part of a nature reserve on the edge of an enormous industrial estate where l regularly walk. The pools are on the site of an old colliery and therefore the nature reserve is on reclaimed industrial land. A busy road runs through the reserve with pools on either side of it, so the swans, geese, ducks and other aquatic birds regularly cross the road bringing traffic to a halt. As well as providing a sense of novelty, surprise and comedy, their navigation of the road seems precarious yet they are not intimidated and you get the sense you are trespassing their world, but nevertheless it is a tense experience.
The series of shorter video clips of wildlife set against the fluid luminescence of the pool-water hopes to demonstrate the artificiality of our natural landscape as some kind of untainted idyll, when it is managed and contained through human intervention. (I make a momentary appearance as a shadowy figure filming.) However, that does not detract from the real beauty we find there and the sense of wonder it inspires. I set the film to Bach’s solo Cello concerto No.1 in G Minor to contrast with the sound of traffic and because classical music and the ‘natural’ landscape seem to be culturally intertwined in terms of our understanding of nature”.
Tess Radcliffe, 3 March 2021
“Artists from many eras and different cultures have been fascinated by clouds and the ever-changing scenery of the sky. In the visual arts clouds and their infinite variety have represented the heavens and celestial bodies, expressed a range of dramatic moods and emotions, and have highlighted the strangeness of the familiar. The formal and abstract qualities of clouds delight, forewarn and inspire the imagination.
This film hopes to absorb and transport the viewer through a range of responses, whilst paying homage to the cloud’s visual history in the many different art works in the Collections at The New Art Gallery Walsall which depict skyscapes. It particularly refers to Cloud Series (ii) and Cloud series (iii) by Dawn Shorten (2016) who, to my mind, has simultaneously represented the cloud as Baroque, Romantic, Impressionist, Surreal and Conceptual icon.
I often photograph and film the sky and cloud formations, and here I captured a fleeting moment during a recent walk through an industrial estate on a rare sunny afternoon. I then edited, overlaid, and filtered a short section of film and repeated the process several times before joining the clips into a one-minute sequence. The classical music is lively and bold and the clouds and birds seem to be choreographed to the musical rhythms.
Listening to music is a really significant part of my practice, and the audio and soundtracks I select are a means of communicating the ideas which inform the art work.”