Painting validating artist
In this dual depiction, the artist seems both suspended and isolated, neither here nor there.
He would spend the next five decades shuttling back and forth across the Atlantic, and still has a studio under the Manhattan Bridge.His richly coloured and thickly textured canvases, often featuring embedded objects, are the products of both predetermined ideas – ‘Everything is structured, I know what I’m doing,’ he says – and chance interventions.A recent display at the Arts Club in London, spanning 50 years of Bowling’s career, hinted at his range and the scale of his achievement.A combination of vying styles, the painting features a central staircase motif – modelled on the spiral stairs at the RCA – that suggests an artist in transition.
Bowling dangles freely at the top right of the canvas, his face a Bacon-esque distortion; he also stands at the bottom, his outline hazy.
Despite some initial success, his tendency towards social or political subjects – he took the assassination of the Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba as one starting point – perhaps hampered his critical reception during this period. ‘I certainly did – like many Commonwealth artists.’ In 1962 Bowling had his first show at the Grabowski Gallery, and two years later he exhibited with the London Group at the Tate, but he was left out of other shows of British art – most notably the ‘New Generation: 1964’ exhibition held at the Whitechapel Gallery.