Frank Bowling: Penumbral Light / Hauser & Wirth Zürich

Coinciding with Zurich Art Weekend and Art Basel Week, Hauser & Wirth Zürich presents recent abstract paintings by Frank Bowling. Titled ‘Penumbral Light’, the exhibition displays paintings made during the London lockdown in 2020. It’s Frank Bowling’s first solo presentation in Switzerland.

Frank Bowling: Penumbral Light / Hauser & Wirth Zürich, Limmatstrasse. Zürich (Switzerland), June 11, 2022.

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Exhibition text (excerpt): Following a period of ill health for the artist in 2019, the works trace the renewed energy and dynamism that Bowling channelled in the studio during his recovery. His restless reinvention of the painted plane endures in this current body of work, which continues to break new ground through the artist’s use of multi-layered washes, thick impasto textures, acrylic gels, stitched canvas and metallic and pearlescent pigments.

Employing a plethora of vivid hues in water-based paints, from acid greens and scorched yellows to neon pinks and deep reds, works such as ‘Towards the Palace of the Peacock’ (2020) and ‘Up a Tree’ (2021) evoke the vibrancy of past series, whilst highlighting a more relaxed and fluid approach to the artist’s painterly process. Aided by chance, Bowling submerges many of his canvases in water, then layers pigmented washes and allows drips of paint to merge, swirl and run across the canvas.

Bowling often intervenes in this process by using a handheld spray bottle to change the form and course of the running paint. Works such as ‘Watermelon Bight’ and ‘Oriented Light’ (both 2020) suggest the speed at which these droplets make their journey across the canvas. The themes of water, shorelines and memory are central to the works and are evoked through the dried areas of layered paint that become reminiscent of borders, as seen in ‘Penumbral Lite’ (2020), harking back to earlier series such as Bowling’s Map paintings from the 1960s.

Over the course of six decades, Frank Bowling has relentlessly pursued a practice which boldly expands the possibilities and properties of paint. Ambitious in scale and scope, his dynamic engagement with the materiality of his chosen medium, and its evolution in the broad sweep of art history, has resulted in paintings of unparalleled originality and power. Bowling has been hailed as one of the foremost British artists of his generation. Born in Guyana (then British Guiana) in 1934, he arrived in London in 1953, graduating from the Royal College of Art with the silver medal for painting in 1962.

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