Frank Bowling: Pushing the Possibilities of Paint, Tate Britain - ★★★☆☆ - Until August 26, 2019


David Hockney - R.B. Kitaj - Frank Bowling? Bowling is the Royal College artist you’ve probably not heard of. He never fitted the ‘Pop’ label despite using images from popular culture. His work was always more painterly and in the 1960s he bridged the gap between Pop and abstraction. He’s still painting and experimenting at the age of 85, and this is the first major retrospective of his work. It takes us from figurative pieces such as ‘Cover Girl’ (1966) to the large abstract, ‘Wafting’ (2018). ‘Mirror’ (1966) is a mix of figuration and abstraction: the figures - as elsewhere - resemble Bacon’s and the spiral staircase could be referring to Duchamp’s. Indeed, the influences are many and eclectic. Moving to New York triggered a more abstract approach, and Bowling played a role there in debates around ‘Black Art’. On the other hand, a childhood in Guyana led to an interest in geo-politics that is behind the series of large ‘Map’ paintings. Location has also been a critical influence, and the Thames-inspired paintings play with the English landscape tradition. The ‘poured’ works are simply about the process of painting, embracing the results of controlled accident and chance. Throughout Bowling's work, the use of rich colour is joyful and the idea of boundaries being pushed is exhilarating.

Reviewed by A.L.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆★★

WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until August 26, 2019

Daily: 10 am - 6 pm
Tate Britain
Nearest tube: Southwark
www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/frank-bowling

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