Over the course of six decades, Sir Frank Bowling has relentlessly pursued a practice which boldly expands the properties of paint. For the artist’s first solo presentation in Switzerland, coinciding with Zurich Art Weekend, ‘Frank Bowling. Penumbral Light’, displays recent abstract paintings made mostly during the London lockdown in 2020.
Following a period of ill health for the artist in 2019, the works trace the renewed energy and dynamism that Bowling channelled in the studio during his recovery. His restless reinvention of the painted plane endures in this current body of work, which continues to break new ground through the artist’s use of multi-layered washes, thick impasto textures, acrylic gels, stitched canvas and metallic and pearlescent pigments.
Employing a plethora of vivid hues in water-based paints, from acid greens and scorched yellows to neon pinks and deep reds, works such as ‘Towards the Palace of the Peacock’ (2020) and ‘Up a Tree’ (2021) evoke the vibrancy of past series, whilst highlighting a more relaxed and fluid approach to the artist’s painterly process. Aided by chance, Bowling submerges many of his canvases in water, then layers pigmented washes and allows drips of paint to merge, swirl and run across the canvas.
Bowling often intervenes in this process by using a handheld spray bottle to change the form and course of the running paint. Works such as ‘Watermelon Bight’ and ‘Oriented Light’ (both 2020) suggest the speed at which these droplets make their journey across the canvas. The themes of water, shorelines and memory are central to the works and are evoked through the dried areas of layered paint that become reminiscent of borders, as seen in ‘Penumbral Lite’ (2020), harking back to earlier series such as Bowling’s Map paintings from the 1960s.
‘Frank Bowling: Penumbral Light’ explores Frank Bowling’s obsessive inquiry into the materiality of paint. With a foreword by the artist’s son, Ben Bowling, and an essay-conversation by curator Gemma Brace, this publication grants readers access to a vibrant world made of water, color, transparency, surface, movement, and light.
For over six decades, Frank Bowling has relentlessly pursued a practice which boldly expands the possibilities and properties of paint. Ambitious in scale and scope, his dynamic engagement with the materiality of his chosen medium, and its evolution in the broad sweep of art history, has resulted in paintings of unparalleled originality and power. Bowling has been hailed as one of the foremost British artists of his generation. Born in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1934, he arrived in London in 1953, graduating from the Royal College of Art with the silver medal for painting in 1962. By the early 1960s, he was recognized as an assured force in London’s art scene. During this period, his highly individual language of painting, which emerged from expressionistic figuration and pop art, encompassed autobiographical elements and the artist’s socio-political concerns.
Frank BowlingPenumbral Light
On view now through 20 August 2022 at Hauser & Wirth Zurich, Limmatstrasse.