Art: Frank Bowling

Frank Bowling

Hi everyone! How have you all been? It has been a while since I last wrote a post. Life has been a bit of a rollercoaster and I have turned 30th!! Making The Pineapple Chicken Blog officially two years old 🙂 It is pretty surprising actually and what a journey it has become. There are no plans to stop posting and hopefully I will share a little art and wellness for many years to come.

Since I have not posted in a while, I realised that I needed to get this post out as soon as possible because it is last chance to see the wonderful Frank Bowling exhibition at the Tate Britain which finishes next week on the 26th August. It is the first retrospective of his works spanning 60 years, he is a true master of colour and paint. For me, the art was unique and otherworldly. I came out of the exhibition feeling completely zen and at peace.

Should you visit, I would recommend ordering the audio guide for the exhibition as it provides a lot more flavour to the wonderful pieces of his work and includes jazz pieces which inspired Bowling’s art. The guide also includes Bowling himself with his smooth baritone voice.

Frank Bowling

Born in Guyana in 1934, he moved to London when he was 19 years old and studied at the Royal College of Art alongside David Hockney. He continues to fly between London and New York studios mastering his abstract and visionary use of paint. Using countless methods and processes, from staining to pouring and different materials and object, the exhibition provides a key insight into his creative world. Now 85 he still paints every day, experimenting with new materials and techniques. For anyone who knows where I can get my hands of some of his artwork or even prints, please do leave me a comment or email message, I would love to see his work in my home.

Exhibition

In my usual format, the below is a walkthrough of the exhibition rooms and highlights of my favourite key pieces to look out for. Bowling is also one of the best artists I have come across when it comes to naming their pieces of work. Unlike others who prefer “Untitled”, for Bowling, there is careful consideration of naming his pieces of work. They would only be named after they are completed and he returns to look at the pieces.

  • Room 1: Birthday (1962) – This was an extremely powerful piece, though not visually beautiful, it is unforgettable. This painting was part of an exercise when Bowling was at the Royal College of Art where the theme was of birthdays. This piece depicted the intense pain of a neighbour giving birth. Inspired by Francis Bacon and this is reflected by the strong gestural strokes.  Room 1 holds his early work which demonstrated his interest in social and political issues as well his own personal narrative.
  • Room 2: Mirror (1964-6) – The painting dominated by this spiral staircase gilded with gold connecting the studio at the Royal College of Art to the V&A museum in London. The painting also includes a self-portrait and a portrait of his wife (at the time) Paddy Kitchen. Room 2 held paintings that were created during 1964 & 7, which was a tumultuous time in his life and career. In 1966, Bowling moved to New York to establish himself and it is in this room, we see Bowling use of stencils in his work.
  • Room 3: Barticaborn 1 (1967) – This is the largest room in the exhibition and introduces map paintings. In New York, Bowling stopping painting the human figure that was seen in his earlier works. Fields of colour are overlaid with stencilled maps of the world and silkscreened images, it is in this room, we start seeing different techniques of processing paint, from painting to staining. This focus marks Bowling’s rejection of the western-centric cartography of many world maps.
  • Room 4: Tony’s Anvil (1975) – Around 1973, Bowling stared pouring paint on a titled canvas to produce contrasting layers and colours from a height of two meters. The spilling paint created an energetic and innovative painting style, it is the first time we see bright and bold contrasting colours. #
  • Room 5: Vitacress (1981) – This is my favourite room in the whole of the exhibition. By the end of the 1970s, Bowling has mastered his techniques of painting that he had been working on over the past decade. He had a deep understanding of the dynamics of the flow of paint and the drama of colour combination. He created Cosmic Space through the use of ammonia and pearlescence, and applied splotches of paint by hand, producing marbling effects. These are pure masterpieces of paint and personally, I thought made the whole exhibition worthwhile visiting!
  • Room 6: Spreadout Ron Kitaj (1984-6) – In the 1980s, Bowling started to experiment with texture in his paintings. This involved glueing various objects, including plastic toys, onto a canvas. He also made use of acrylic gel to extend the volume of paint, texture and transparency in his painting. There was a greater range of colours (often spanning the rainbow) and layering.
  • Room 7: Great Thames II (1989) – This room brings together four pieces that were created in 1989 of abstract expressionism to capture Bowling’s interpretation of the  English landscape.
  • Room 8: From V2-RS1 (2005) & Haze (2005) –  In the 1990s, Bowling continued to create with acrylic paint and gel and similar to Room 6, experimented further with materials and glueing of materials. It is also the first time we see smaller-scale paintings, one of which, is so simple, yet distinctive. This is the first time we also see a very subtle colour palette; making these also one of my favourite pieces.
  • Room 9: Aston’splunge (2011) – Capturing all his skills in one piece, Bowling has combined pouring, spilling, throwing, brushing and dripping paint premixed with gel, water and pearlescence. It is just an explosion of colour. This piece refers to the middle name of his assistance and longtime friend Spencer A. Richards. The final room of the exhibition showcases recent art pieces over the past decade and at 85, Bowling continues to create in his studio and experiment with techniques adopted over many decades, combining them into an infinite number of variations.

Bowling’s technical mastery, acquired through decades of experimentation, gives way to a remarkable confidence to improvise. He continues to establish, and systematically break, an ever-changing set of self-imposed rules. – Tate

Master of painting and colour, the retrospective of Frank Bowling’s six decades of masterpieces is a trip worth making to Tate Britain. This blog rates the exhibition 5 out of 5 pineapples, so hurry as it is the last chance to see it as it closes next week!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x