Fuchsia Parabola

frank bowling

Frank Bowling in London in 2017. Mr. Bowling, 85, has finally netted a major retrospective, at Tate Britain. Credit Frank Bowling/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London; Alastair Levy.

[Frank] Bowling, born in Guyana 85 years ago, has lived for more than five decades in the London district of Pimlico…

Jason Farago’s recent appreciation of Frank Bowling’s work is full of verbal spice. (Jason Farago, “A Trans-Atlantic Artist, Recognized at Home, at Last,” NYTimes, 7-10-19). The “show” refers to an exhibition of Bowling’s abstract paintings at Tate Britain.

[The show is]… a bit too eager to inscribe Mr. Bowling into a British practice of low-risk, landscape-fixated, not-quite-abstraction…

This characterization of British practice (“low-risk,” etc.) is new to me. I will keep it in mind and try to understand its derivation as I keep looking at British art.

Mr. Bowling is also a writer: a pugnacious one…

In his capacity as contributing editor to “Arts Magazine” Bowling engaged in a dialog with black artists “whose work foregrounded their racial identity.” I’m happy to “background” that scuffle and simply enjoy the notion of a “pugnacious” writer. It reminds me of Norman Mailer’s pugilism and John Updike’s comment about Mailer’s “puckish truculence.” When is pugnacity in a writer not chuckle-worthy?

frank bowling great thames

Mr. Bowling’s “Great Thames IV” from 1989. Credit Frank Bowling/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London.

[Bowling’s] marbled abstractions of the early 1980s… are pretty at first glance, but unrewardingly dainty at second… “Great Thames IV” (1989)… [is] a handsome but conservative painting… offering the eyes too much and the mind too little…

Eyes too much, mind too little… Hmmm. This handsome assertion by a critic in firm command of his medium isn’t conservative, but it tracks his assessment of the painting.

frank bowling painting

Mr. Bowling’s “Iona Miriam’s Christmas Visit To & From Brighton” from 2017. Credit Frank Bowling/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London; Hales Gallery.

Purple and orange splotches explode like land mines against a backdrop of whispering gray. A fuchsia parabola whips from the top right corner down and back, transmuting as it descends into a gray scar.

“Transmuting” is transitive and usually used with an object. For me it’s weighty and off key here — “changing” would do the trick — but otherwise this description of the painting pops loudly.

(C) 2019 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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