Frank Bowling OBE RA LG is known for his abstract paintings juxtaposing striking colours and textures. Born in Guyana in 1936, Bowling moved to London as a teenage boy and won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in 1959, graduating in 1962 with a Silver Medal in Painting. A resultant travel scholarship took him to South America and the Caribbean, initiating a trend in trans-Atlantic travel that characterised his career and reputation in being established worldwide - he moved to New York in 1966 after being awarded a 1967 Guggenheim Fellowship.
It was here that he met the art critic Clement Greenberg, flourished and cemented his passionate adherence to modernism. Not to be pigeonholed as a purely political Black artist or limited by his background, Bowling in his work focuses on the materiality of paint as it is dripped, poured and layered to form vibrant terrains of colour and forms extending the painted surface. Bowling builds layered landscape of colour, abstract form and textures that “cook” over a period of several days or week. The canvas does not always restrict his works, with some paintings shaped by the uneven floorboards of his studio that dictate where the mass of wet paint settles and dries. Bowling’s expansive body of work shows his shifting style, from earlier, more figurative, earthy coloured work to his large-scale “map paintings” that built distortions of colour and form on the outlines of the landmasses of South America and Africa. His work has found affinity with Lyrical Abstraction and Colour Field painting and he also began working within a practice that gave name to his “poured paintings”. At all times, his works preserve an effervescent colour palette and spontaneity for which he is known.
Kalateur II (1976)/ Kaieturtoo (1975), is a searing molten waterfall of paint. The
work was executed in his ‘poured painting’ practice that he developed in the 1970s.
Bowling poured painting from the top of the canvas, often set at a 45-degree angle, from
heights of up to two metres. By removing his control of the paint, the liquid ran down the
canvas by its own will, capturing the energy of the process and creating unique and
impulsive paintings in a process that Bowling himself had innovated. This body of work
and style of painting was the subject to a 2012 display at the Tate Britain, London.
Bowling was contributing editor at Arts Magazine from 1969 to 1972, as well as a
teaching at institutions from the University of Reading, Massachusetts College of Art,
Rutgers and Columbia University. Bowling’s paintings are featured in public collections
from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, Boston Museum of Fine Art, to the
Royal Academy of Art in London. He has been exhibited internationally in solo shows
and biennials at the Whitney Museum of Art, New York (1971) and the Serpentine
Gallery, London (1986). Bowling has since been exhibited in Poured Paintings, Hales
Gallery, London (2015), Haus der Kunst, Munich (2017) and Soul of a Nation: Art in the
Age of Black Power, Tate Modern (2017). He is the first elected black Royal
Academician and continues his practice in both New York and London.
Frank Bowling (b. 1936)
This abstract, expressionistic work is titled after a waterfall in Guyana (the artist’s
country of birth). In 2005, Bowling became the first Black artist to be elected to the
Royal Academy of Arts.
Acrylic on canvas
On loan from Government Art Collection