One of the foremost British artists of his generation, Sir Frank Bowling has spent more than six decades relentlessly challenging the limits of the medium of painting and expanded its possibilities, attracting acclaim for his contributions to abstraction. ‘Landscape,’ the artist’s first solo exhibition at Hauser & Wirth West Hollywood, presents recent ebullient paintings that engage the rich art historical tradition of landscape painting – and propel it forward into the present moment.
Landscape has figured in Bowling’s work since the artist first began making his celebrated Map paintings – vast color fields depicting stenciled images of landmasses like South America or his native Guyana – while living in New York in the 1960s. Over subsequent years, he gradually moved away from cartographic representation to embrace the freedom of abstraction as a means to convey the emotive qualities and properties of color.
‘I have been fascinated by English landscape painting since my first visit to the National Gallery in London in the 1950s and that tradition is a furrow that I have ploughed for many years. The thing is, I don’t want to make Turners or Constables or Gainsboroughs; I always tried to avoid that. I want to make something completely new, something that no one has seen before.’ —Frank Bowling
By the early 1980s, having established a studio near the River Thames in the Pimlico neighborhood of London, Bowling had immersed himself in the purely abstract aspects of traditional painting, specifically the rich history of European painterly engagement with land, sea sky, and clouds found in the work of J.M.W. Turner and John Constable. In response to this influence, the artist developed a highly personal abstract language of his own, in which vivid, dynamic flows of paint allude to landscapes – implicit, metaphorical, metaphysical – alive with distant but distinct sense memories of his birthplace.
Among the works on view in the exhibition, the monumental canvas ‘#4 to the Lighthouse’ (2021) features broad swathes of paint, some of which have been poured directly onto the canvas and mixed on its plane, rendering an expansive fluorescent field of color imbued with a lambent light. Other works on view, like ‘On The Beach’ (2017) and ‘Skyla’schoice’ (2014), feature found objects embedded in the surfaces of the paintings, offering glimpses of biographical detail that root them in the present moment.
‘I firmly believe that paint carries its own light within it and I want my paintings to catch the light that exists in the natural world. My whole life I have lived near water – the Berbice river, the Thames, the East River. And I am sure that my eye has been influenced by the light over the water and the terrain in those places, whether that is New Amsterdam or London or New York’ —Frank Bowling
‘Landscape’ at Hauser & Wirth West Hollywood coincides with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) exhibition ‘Frank Bowling: The New York Years 1966-1975,’ the first major US survey of the artist’s work in more than four decades. Traveling from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the exhibition will be on view 20 May – 10 September 2023, and will feature 11 additional artworks, including an expanded group of paintings made between 2018 and 2022.
On view now in Downtown LA and globally: Frank Bowling's first digital artwork ‘Arrival,’ featuring a cascade of color. Celebrating the 70-year anniversary of Bowling’s arrival in London from Guyana in May 1953, The Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Arts presents ‘Arrival,’ an exhibition coinciding with The Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III and the 75th anniversary of Windrush.
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.
On view now through 5 August 2023 at Hauser & Wirth West Hollywood.