Magazine article Artforum International

Frank Bowling: Marc Selwyn Fine Art

Magazine article Artforum International

Frank Bowling: Marc Selwyn Fine Art

Article excerpt

Frank Bowling

MARC SELWYN FINE ART

"Cooking," he calls it, but there are other words that come to mind when describing Frank Bowling's restless, wildly inventive painting practice: spilling, smearing, dripping, brushing, raking, flicking, sticking, foaming, cutting, stitching, and pasting, to name a few. And waiting. Bowling often works on the floor, flooding canvases with vivid washes of acrylic and oil, letting the paints pool, settle, and dry before staining them again. He applies thick, gestural curls of impasto that sometimes take weeks to harden into crunchy corrugated surfaces. He embeds tiny objects and pigment into thick laminar flows of pearlescent foam and wax. Within these frozen streams, delicate veins of color catch the eye and hold it. The expansive paintings that emerge from this diverse, improvisatory repertoire of techniques demand to be seen in person. They are huge, mercurial things--numinous and aerial, submarine and liquid, spiky and fractious.

The earliest works in this exhibition dated from the late 1960s, when Bowling moved to New York from London. His departure from the UK coincided with a shift in his work away from the figurative, Pop-influenced style he had developed earlier in the decade as a student at the Royal College of Art and toward formalist abstraction. Mother's House Dot Dot Com, 1966-99, exemplifies this transitory stage in Bowling's practice: From the neck down, it's a hot haze of atmospheric pinks and saffron yellows; silk-screened above in gray-on-orange ground is the faint, dreamlike "mother's house," an image of the general store Bowling's mum owned during his childhood in what was then British Guiana. The motif recurs in Mel Edwards Decides, 1968, from Bowling's "Map Paintings" series, 1967-71--an enormous, enigmatic work rendered in spectral stains of goldenrod yellow, and a highlight of this survey. Across the painting's top third, the distinctive outline of the house is repeated three times, side by side. Below it, Bowling has added the contours of South America, again repeated three times; below these marks is a set of three additional map outlines, this time of Guyana. The painting's serial repetitions, shadowy blankness, and inscrutable presence collectively resist easy interpretation. …

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