LONDON – Frank Bowling’s vast technicolor canvasses are the stars of London gallery Tate Britain’s latest show, which will open to the public on Friday.
The British abstract expressionist, known for his highly saturated explorations, is set to enjoy the first in-depth retrospective of his work which will bring together rare gems such as his “Map Paintings” series.
“Living and working between London and New York, he has continuously reinvented painting fueled by a knowledge of European tradition and post-war abstraction, and infuses his works with deeply personal narrative,” Tate Britain said in a statement.
Bowling was born in 1934 in the Caribbean former British colony of Guyana and moved to the United Kingdom in 1953.
He went on to study art at the prestigious Royal College of Art where he met fellow artist David Hockney.
He moved to New York in the 1960s and became a vocal critic of black art during the Civil Rights movement.
During this period Bowling produced his “Map Paintings,” 10 of which will be displayed at the Tate.
The huge canvasses, which are up to seven meters long, are awash with intense hues overlaid stenciled maps of the world that blur with the bright paints.
The intensely vivid color palette complements the narratives of displacement and identity of the artworks which Bowling produced at a time that colonialism was dissolving and vast empires crumbling.
The geographical perspective in these works is often dominated by the African continent and Latin America.
Another space in the exhibition is dedicated to Bowling’s “Poured Paintings,” considered by many as an accomplished exploration of American painter Jackson Pollock’s drip method.
Created in the 1970s, he created kaleidoscopic works by pouring acrylics onto the canvas from a distance of up to two meters.
The end result is reminiscent of waterfalls and lava lamps in psychedelic colors.
Other highlights include later paintings that have a three dimensional quality to them as Bowling added objects and layer upon layer of paint to add depth.
“Bowling at times applies this tactile process to hint at topographical forms, as in the remarkable Great Thames paintings which evoke undulating riverbeds and the play of sunlight on water,” Tate Britain said.
One such artwork is “Sacha Jason Guyana Dreams” (1989), a painting that was inspired by a trip to Guyana with his son Sasha, who was at the press preview with Bowling’s other son Benjamin and his granddaughter Niamh.
“We are really happy to be here for the start of the exhibit,” Benjamin Bowling told members of the press on Thursday.
The exhibition includes paintings that have been created in the last decade as well as very early works, like “Cover Girl” (1966) which has never been shown in the UK.
The exhibition runs from May 31- Aug. 26.