The Castlefield Gallery is mounting the first one-man exhibition of FRANK BOWLING’s work to be held in the North West. Although he has lived, worked and exhibited widely in America where his work is well known (especially in New York where he was awarded the American Guggenheim Fellowship twice), Bowling has not attained the same level of recognition in this country.
He was born in Guyana, South America in 1936, came to Britain in the 1950s to study painting and was awarded a scholarship to The Royal College of Art in 1959 where his contemporaries included David Hockney, R.B. Kitaj, Peter Philips and Allen Jones.
Bowling met Francis Bacon in 1961 and was prompted by him to reassess his approach to painting. Bacon’s method of allowing images to gradually emerge from spontaneous marks made on the canvas was to influence Bowling’s technical approach to his work.
Gradually Bowling’s work moved away from depicting subject-matter to concentrate on a purely abstract art. His technique follows on from that of the Abstract Expressionists but he has evolved a working method, which, like the ‘action painting’ of Jackson Pollock, is unique and individual to him.
Improvisation and experimentation play an important role in Bowling’s work. To create the compact layers of vivid colours which feature in his paintings, acrylic paint is poured onto an un-stretched canvas placed on the floor. The canvas is then pinned to the wall before the paint has dried allowing it to flow freely creating a sense of movement in the finished composition. The paint is mixed with a gel, which produces an encrusted surface giving the pictures a strong tactile as well as visual appeal. Other miscellaneous materials, such as pieces of canvas and foam are buried within this surface creating geometric shapes and lines, which form a framework in which other elements such as colour, light, space and texture are balanced. The works seem possessed by some kind of organic growth with a life of its own that spreads out over the surface of the canvas.
The Castlefield exhibition will contain some of Bowling’s most recent work along with works on paper and sculpture that he has produced.
Frank Bowling will be giving an illustrated talk on his work on Wednesday June 15th at 5.30pm at the gallery.