Denis Bowen (1921 - 2006)
Atomic Image I
Oil on canvas
Redfern Gallery, London
The Financial Times Collection
London, The Redfern Gallery, Ten Younger English Painters, 13 January – 12 February 1960, cat.no.46
London, The Redfern Gallery, Denis Bowen, Recent Paintings, January 1960,
unnumbered (detail ill. b&w)
Canvas size: 72 ½ in (184cm) x 36 ¼ in (92cm)
Framed size: 81 ¼ in (206.5cm) x 45 in (114cm)
Denis Bowen was one of the most widely respected abstract painters of the post war period in London. Born in Kimberley, South Africa in 1921 he was brought up and educated in England, studying at Huddersfield School of Art and, following war service in the Navy, attended the Royal College of Art. Bowen then emerged as one of the chief proponents of the 'Tachiste' movement in Britain, developing the influences of European ‘art informel’ painters like Soulages and Mathieu. He was committed to gestural informal painting and ‘mark making’ which exploited chance and accident as part of an imaginative manipulation of paint.
His approach was connected with the idea of ‘action painting’ for which Jackson Pollock is famous. It is something like free form or improvised jazz whereby no set pattern or preconception is planned out before the creation of the work itself. A great sense of mystery and excitement emerges: “Your mind needs to be empty when you paint – only then can you become active. I go into a state of hyperconsciousness when I’m working. I always know when paint reaches a point that satisfies my sensitivities”. He used the chemical interaction between oil paint, pigment, and turpentine, which produces an amorphous quality. The drying time between different chemical qualities results in his paintings resembling an imprint of time. A painting thus should look almost alive: “I call it freezing time”.
Bowen founded the New Vision Centre Gallery in 1956, taught at the Royal College of Art and has been an influential member of the ‘International Association of Art Critics’.He has exhibited widely since the 1950’s including the Redfern Gallery in 1958, the AIA and the Barbican and his works are in numerous public collections including three recent purchases by the Tate Gallery. Denis Bowen died 23rd March 2006.