Sir Frank Bowling, OBE RA, photograph © Sacha Bowling
Arnolfini celebrates the work of pioneering painter Sir Frank Bowling, in its 60th anniversary year, sharing new and previously unseen work, alongside key paintings from the last decade.
At 87, Bowling continues to explore the ‘possibilities of paint’ with an experimental ethos that places material, colour and light at the heart of his practice. In his first public gallery exhibition since his highly acclaimed Tate retrospective in 2019, Land of Many Waters explores the ebb and flow in his practice between process and the ever-present autobiographical details that hover beyond.
In new works (made throughout 2020) surfaces are stripped back in luminescent colours, and paint bleeds, stains and seeps into imagined horizons and shorelines – ‘not a view but the idea of a view’. Alongside these sit older works in which Bowling revisits past techniques from his ‘poured’ paintings to vertical ‘zippers’, embedding surfaces with textiles, collage, and a multitude of materials so that the acrylic paint is littered and layered with remnants of life.
Animated by photographs, texts, and materials from Bowling’s personal archive and London studio, Land of Many Waters also evokes the colours and textures of his working life, highlighting the multiplicity of his practice
Sir Frank Bowling, OBE, RA, born in British Guiana in 1934, has been hailed as one of Britain’s greatest living abstract painters and as a ‘modern master’. Bowling’s innovations in technique, and his use of paint and surface texture, have changed the practice of painting. Aged 87 Bowling’s only ambition is to continue to work in his studio.
Land of Many Waters coincides with Sir Frank Bowling’s OBE, RA, first exhibition with Hauser & Wirth, Hauser & Wirth London and Hauser & Wirth New York, 22nd Street. A new publication from Arnolfini to accompany the exhibition and is available from the Arnolfini Bookshop.
About Frank Bowling
Sir Frank Bowling, OBE, RA, has been hailed as one of Britain’s greatest living abstract painters and as a ‘modern master’. His uniquely beautiful paintings are said to display a ‘visionary approach that fuses abstraction with personal memories’. They have been described as ‘late modern masterpieces’ of ‘astonishing physical power and stunning visual drama’ made during a lifetime of relentless experimentation. They have been exhibited in hundreds of group and solo exhibitions and can be found in fifty institutions worldwide.
Bowling’s innovations in technique, the use of paint and surface texture have changed the practice of painting. Bowling has won a great many accolades during his career including the silver medal in painting and an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art (in 1962 and 2020, respectively).
He was made a Member of the Royal Academy of Art in 2005 and awarded an OBE for services to art in 2008 and has been given the honour of Knight Bachelor conferred upon him in the Birthday 2020 Honours List by Her Majesty The Queen. Bowling is an artistic pioneer who has shown dedication and dogged persistence in the face of obstacles throughout his life of painting, writing and teaching. His work ethic is second to none, painting in his studio every day.
Bowling is an inspiration to younger artists and supports students at a number of art schools and many other good causes. Recognition has come late in Bowling’s career. As well as ‘magnificent’, ‘joyous’, ‘spectacular’ and ‘astonishing’, his 2019 Tate Britain retrospective was described as ‘long overdue’. Aged 87 Bowling’s only ambition is to continue to work in his studio. Through his paintings, that ‘crackle with experimental energy’, his writing and impact on the canon of contemporary painting, and in his support for younger artists, Bowling has made a strikingly original and world-leading contribution to British painting and art history.
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Our How Do You Feel Guide? encourages you to experience Frank Bowling’s exhibition through your senses, feelings, imaginations and memories. The guide has been created by Gaylene Gould and The Space to Come, illustrated by Abbi Bayliss.
Copies are available in the Galleries at Arnolfini as well as here for you to download.
To help you navigate your way around the exhibition, copies are available in the galleries, as well as for you to download below. Each work has a QR code to give more context and audio descriptions.
There are audio descriptions of the works in the exhibition, accessible via QR Code in all the Galleries.
You can also hear them here:
Land of Many Waters: Exhibition Slideshow
Look at the works in our exhibition through our slideshows:
All images by Lisa Whiting Photography for Arnolfini 2021.
Frank Bowling’s First Time in Bristol
Read about Frank Bowling’s first time in Bristol, a key moment in the artist’s early career, as retold by his son, Ben Bowling.
The exhibition is accompanied by a Land of Many Waters Catalogue featuring newly commissioned essays, an interview with Sir Frank Bowling, and previously unseen archival material, alongside works from the last 10 years. The publication is kindly supported by Hauser & Wirth and will be available for purchase and pre-order from Arnolfini Bookshop and for review via Arnolfini marketing.
Meet the Artist: Frank Bowling is packed with make-and-dos and inspiring activities for budding young artists. Experiment with paints and glue in ways you never imagined, make layered collages using recycling and design your own world using stencils and fantasy maps! Enter into the vivid world of Frank Bowling and create your own inspiring art along the way! Available from Arnolfini Bookshop.
Listen to a special series of conversations from Shade, supported by Hauser & Wirth.
This three-part podcast series ‘Unencumbered Voices in Curated Spaces’ is inspired by the life and work of Sir Frank Bowling, providing a collaborative platform for diverse perspectives investigating freedom of expression today and throughout art history.
Hosted by Lou Mensah, Shade engages a wide community of creatives who challenge existing narratives on representation and identity within their work.
Episode one is with Silas Munro is a Los Angeles-based critic, writer and partner of graphic design studio Polymode. The second episode is with art historian Michael Ohajuru.
Listen now via Shade × Hauser & Wirth: Silas Munro – Hauser & Wirth or searching Shade wherever you get your podcasts
Frank Bowling – London / New York
5 May – 30 July 2021
21 May – 31 July 2021