Frank Bowling OBE RA (b. Guyana, 1934) moved to London in 1953, where his artistic career began shortly after his arrival at the Royal College of Art (1959-62). The artist has since established studios in both New York and London.
Bowling began as a figurative painter incorporating personal and political imagery, before moving to New York in 1966, where he made a decisive turn towards abstraction. In this career-defining moment, he developed a process-based practice, exploring the nature and possibilities of paint. Through his monumental colour field paintings, he cemented himself in the competitive New York scene. His pictures, which had always inclined towards a frontal geometric structure of space, became more geometrically complex, guided by principals of mathematics and symmetry. It is during this transitional period in the mid- to late-‘60s that Bowling’s seminal body of work, the Map Paintings – a series of quasi-abstract colour fields overlaid with stencilled images of maps of Australia, South America and Africa – was produced.
In 1971, Bowling met Clement Greenberg, who not only became a regular visitor to the artist's studio, but also an important influence to Bowling. Greenberg’s advice and encouragement helped remove any lingering doubts Bowling might have had about his commitment to modernism. The narrative present in Bowling’s earlier work was replaced by an increasing focus on material, process, and colour. By this time, Bowling had developed a very personal palette for his large, light-filled, lyrical colour abstractions that distinguished his work from that of earlier Colour Field painters working in the USA such as Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski or Larry Poons. However, never content to stop exploring and experimenting with paint, Bowling continued to innovate with new processes. He subsequently developed a special mechanical apparatus which tilted the canvas so he could pour paint onto it, creating the spontaneous fusions of layer and colour now known as the iconic Poured Paintings.
In the early 1980s, the influence of geometry became visible not just in Bowling's paintings, but also in the way he worked with canvas. He started using chunks of Styrofoam to create quasi-sculptural relief, a technique the artist continues to use today. Indeed, Bowling’s recent works produced over the last few years continue to explore the nature and possibilities of abstract painting, the diverse range of principles and processes explored across his career now converging and coalescing in dynamic new configurations of colour and form. This new period of painterly experimentation has received critical acclaim, and has recently been showcased in exhibitions in the UK and US. Bowling continues to orchestrate the emotive potential of colours to communicate a visual experience of uniquely sensuous immediacy.
Bowling’s paintings have been exhibited widely and internationally. In 2019, Frank Bowling’s major retrospective was held at Tate Britain, London. In 2017, Okwui Enwezor curated a comprehensive survey of Bowling’s large-scale paintings at Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany, which has since toured to Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland and Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE (2018). In 2005 Bowling became the first black artist to become a Member of the Royal Academy of Art and in 2008 he was awarded an OBE for his Services to art. In 1967 and 1973 he received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, helping to fund his practice in New York. Selected solo shows include Dallas Museum of Art, TX, USA (2015); Spritmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden (2014-2015), Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (2011); Serpentine Gallery, London, UK (1986); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA (1971). Bowling’s work can be found in numerous public and private collections including the Michael Buxton Collection, Melbourne, Austrailia; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA; Tate Gallery, London, UK; Dallas Museum of Art, TX, USA; Minneapolis Museum of Art, MN, USA; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA; Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK; Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA.