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Arnolfini celebrates the work of pioneering painter Sir Frank Bowling, in its 60th anniversary year, sharing new and previously unseen work, alongside key paintings from the last decade.
At 87, Bowling continues to explore the ‘possibilities of paint’ with an experimental ethos that places material, colour and light at the heart of his practice. In his first public gallery exhibition since his highly acclaimed Tate retrospective in 2019, Land of Many Waters explores the ebb and flow in his practice between process and the ever-present autobiographical details that hover beyond.
In new works (made throughout 2020) surfaces are stripped back in luminescent colours, and paint bleeds, stains and seeps into imagined horizons and shorelines – ‘not a view but the idea of a view’. Alongside these sit older works in which Bowling revisits past techniques from his ‘poured’ paintings to vertical ‘zippers’, embedding surfaces with textiles, collage, and a multitude of materials so that the acrylic paint is littered and layered with remnants of life.
Animated by photographs, texts, and materials from Bowling’s personal archive and London studio, Land of Many Waters also evokes the colours and textures of his working life, highlighting the multiplicity of his practice
Sir Frank Bowling, OBE, RA, born in British Guiana in 1934, has been hailed as one of Britain’s greatest living abstract painters and as a ‘modern master’. Bowling’s innovations in technique, and his use of paint and surface texture, have changed the practice of painting. Aged 87 Bowling’s only ambition is to continue to work in his studio.
Land of Many Waters coincides with Sir Frank Bowling’s OBE, RA, first exhibition with Hauser & Wirth, Frank Bowling: London | New York, in London and New York, May 2021. A new publication from Arnolfini to accompany the exhibition and will be available from the Arnolfini Bookshop.
Sir Frank Bowling, OBE, RA, has been hailed as one of Britain’s greatest living abstract painters and as a ‘modern master’. His uniquely beautiful paintings are said to display a ‘visionary approach that fuses abstraction with personal memories’. They have been described as ‘late modern masterpieces’ of ‘astonishing physical power and stunning visual drama’ made during a lifetime of relentless experimentation. They have been exhibited in hundreds of group and solo exhibitions and can be found in fifty institutions worldwide.
Bowling’s innovations in technique, the use of paint and surface texture have changed the practice of painting. Bowling has won a great many accolades during his career including the silver medal in painting and an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art (in 1962 and 2020, respectively).
He was made a Member of the Royal Academy of Art in 2005 and awarded an OBE for services to art in 2008 and has been given the honour of Knight Bachelor conferred upon him in the Birthday 2020 Honours List by Her Majesty The Queen. Bowling is an artistic pioneer who has shown dedication and dogged persistence in the face of obstacles throughout his life of painting, writing and teaching. His work ethic is second to none, painting in his studio every day.
Bowling is an inspiration to younger artists and supports students at a number of art schools and many other good causes. Recognition has come late in Bowling’s career. As well as ‘magnificent’, ‘joyous’, ‘spectacular’ and ‘astonishing’, his 2019 Tate Britain retrospective was described as ‘long overdue’. Aged 86 Bowling’s only ambition is to continue to work in his studio. Through his paintings, that ‘crackle with experimental energy’, his writing and impact on the canon of contemporary painting, and in his support for younger artists, Bowling has made a strikingly original and world-leading contribution to British painting and art history.
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