Distinguished for his abstract colour fields, Frank Bowling began his career as a figurative painter. He turned to abstraction following his move to New York in 1966, where he became influenced by the ideas of Clement Greenberg and the New York art scene. Bowling abandoned the political narratives found in his early works such as the Martyrdom of Patrice Lumumba, 1961, and began to focus on purely pictorial issues of colour and composition. Initially, going through a semi-abstract phase, as in his series of Map Paintings, 1967-1971, where the contours of different continents are stencilled on luscious colour fields, he soon shifted to new working methods of splashing, pouring and dripping paint onto the canvas. With these experimental techniques, Bowling was able to create richly textured large-scale abstractions that embrace the expressionistic qualities of loose painterly gesture and emotive colour, as well as the elements of spontaneity and chance.
Bowling’s work was included in ‘Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance,’ 1997. The touring exhibition, organised by Iniva in collaboration with Hayward Gallery and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, considered Harlem Renaissance as a historical moment of global significance, with connections to Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. His work was also showcased in the exhibition ‘Fault Lines: Contemporary African Art and Shifting Landscapes’, presented as part of the 50th Venice Biennale, 2003. To mark the occasion, a book of the same title was released by Iniva in collaboration with the Forum for African Arts and the Prince Claus Fund.
Born in Guyana, Bowling moved to England in 1950. In 1962, he graduated from the Royal College of Art with a Silver Medal in Painting along with other celebrated artists such as David Hockney, Derek Boshier and R. B. Kitaj. He has exhibited in numerous exhibitions in the UK and internationally, including the landmark exhibition ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’ at Tate Modern in 2017 that traces the contribution of Black artists at a major turning point in American Art and history. His work is also part of many public collections such as Tate, V&A, MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Bowling was the first Black British artist elected a member of Royal Academy of Arts in 2005, followed by an OBE award in the 2008 Birthday Honours.
With studios in both New York and London, Bowling is living and working between the two cities.