Frank Bowling is one of the most
distinguished black artists in post-war British art. He is a
painter of major talent whose work reflects his love and
fascination with colour, composition and scale. His work ranges
from dark figurative paintings through to stunning abstracts.
Frank Bowling was born in British Guiana in
1936 and moved to London in 1950 to complete his education. He did
his national service in the RAF and on visiting the National
Gallery with his RAF friends became interested in painting.
He won a scholarship to the Royal College of
Art which he attended from 1959 to 1962. On graduating Frank
Bowling was awarded the Silver Medal for Painting (his
contemporary, David Hockney, won the Gold Medal) and a travel
scholarship to South America and the Caribbean.
His work at this stage was figurative and
expressionist inspired by the old masters: childbirth, landscape,
beggars and people from his childhood and with the end of
colonialism in the 1960’s also political subjects. Around 1964 his
painting became more geometrical. The result ‘Big Bird’ in 1965 won
him the Grand Prize for Contemporary Arts at the First Festival of
Negro Art in Senegal.
In 1966 he moved to New York and had his first
one person exhibition the same year. His work was changing to
thinly painted maps, sometimes with stencils of his mother’s house,
culminating in 1971 with a solo show of his map paintings at the
Whitney Museum of American Art.
He was Contributing Editor to Arts
Magazine from 1968 to 1971 and was awarded two Guggenheim
Fellowships in 1967 and 1973. His work became abstract after 1971
and colour became the most important variable. He showed
consistently in New York between 1975 and 1989. In London he had
shows at the Acme Gallery, Covent Garden in 1977 and the Serpentine
Gallery in 1986. His paintings were becoming more built up and
encrusted with strips of foam and objects buried in the acrylic
gel. The Tate Gallery purchased one of his paintings ‘Spread Out
Ron Kitaj’ in 1987. It was the first piece of work the Gallery
acquired by a black British artist.
By 1990 he was back in Brooklyn and he has
divided his time between New York and London since then.
His work is on permanent display in the UK at
The Tate Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Lloyds of
London; in the USA at the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern
Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Museum
of Fine Arts in Boston and the New Jersey Museum of Art; and in the
West Indies in the National Gallery of Jamaica.
He was presented with Pollock-Krasner Awards
in 1992 and 1998 and elected a Royal Academician in 2005, the first
black British artist to be elected in the 200 years of the
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