DAY BOWMAN : Plashy Places
6 March - 5 April 2020
Text by Jenny Blyth
How deeply are etched within us our childhood memories - where time stood still, the days unending, where our sources of delight and adventure were imbued with a sense of wonder, where everything felt yet to be discovered.
Day Bowman’s childhood days were spent in the Somerset town of Minehead, and it is the landscape of that unassuming post-industrial beach town that forms the bedrock for her painting. Her hometown was recorded in the Domesday Book but dates back to the Bronze Age. Strategically located on the coast, it grew from busy trading post in the 1500s to industrial town of the 1800s shipping herring, wool, cattle and coal to Bristol, Wales and Ireland. Industry fell away to larger ports, leaving a detritus of abandoned mining and industrial ‘architecture’. With a new railway line and a pier, Minehead re-emerged as a fashionable Edwardian seaside resort, and remains today a bucket-and-spade summer holiday destination.
There is an echo to the ’layering’ in this coastal town that we see in Bowman’s work. Her paintings are complex. Her skill is the alchemy of juxtaposing the different elements that command her attention, composing abstract paintings that are balanced and fluid. There is terrific strength and confidence in her work. Movement abounds. She balances blocks of black with trapeziums of rust, where ribbons of colour and charcoal encircle pools of light, and scribbled hearts and footprints belie the depth of darker planes and corners.
It is the ‘behind the scenes’ landscape of a ghosted industry and deserted winter beaches that fire her imagination. Bowman’s paintings are experiential - Urban Wastelands resonate with the echo of footsteps - running ‘tag’ through giant concrete tunnels, the plink of metal on metal, the dynamic and drama of a wasteland tableaux that characterized ‘playgrounds’ for children of the sixties.
Bowman returns to the beaches of childhood in her recent paintings of **Plashy Places. **Wet sand glistens as the incoming and receding tides of ‘Flood and Ebb’ erase calligraphic marks etched momentarily into surface, where the pooling of seawater and reflections play out in oil on canvas. Capturing the abandon of play, Bowman recalls W B Yeats’ Man From Faeryland, who, careworn with the fears and concerns of adulthood, observes the humble lugworm rising to the surface, singing of higher places and golden skies …
Bowman’s new and larger paintings of **Holiday Destinations I, II & III **combine elements of both beach and wasteland. A ribbon of sky blue colours up against rust and golden ochres, where spectrums of ghost whites and greys ignite against the drama of a black backdrop.
While her post-industrial abstractions resonate with rigour and dynamic, sculpting shape and movement across the canvas, so Day Bowman’s beach paintings of Plashy Places capture the magic and beauty of the littoral shoreline, a perpetual dance between sea and land - that tangential, kinetic point at which figuration and abstraction play out.
2019 has been a big year for Day Bowman. She was the Winner of the Anima Mundi International Painting 2019 at Venice Biennale 2019; awarded First Prize for Painting in Bath Arts Open 2019; and won First Prize in the Wales Contemporary 2019. A graduate of Chelsea School of Art and London University, she has exhibited widely with solo exhibitions over 15 years touring in Museums across UK, Germany and China where in 2017 she showed with Contemporary Masters from Britain. In 2012 she was commissioned to create giant hoardings across Weymouth to mark the Olympic Sailing. She has paintings in international collections, and works from her studios in London and Dorset.
DAY BOWMAN ‘ALCHEMY’ : 4 January - 8 February 2015.
ART JERICHO 6 King Street Oxford OX2 6DF
Day Bowman is emerging as one of the UK’s most exciting contemporary painters. Drawing inspiration from post industrial landscape, Day has written her own alphabet and language of painting. You can clearly distinguish the origins for her gestural marks that refer back to a childhood spent exploring urban wastelands, a landscape that continues to excite and inspire her. Flat colour planes, ink spills and ribbons of colour interleave symbols that once were gasometers, containers and huge concrete piping. Perfected over years, Day creates abstract expressionist paintings that feel like jazz fusion. Her paintings are charged and fluid - dynamic in form and joyous in palette.
Day Bowman: “There is a kind of cruel beauty in the destruction we create - for me, the oil depot, stacked piping and overhead cables have superseded the rivers and hills of the traditional picturesque.
Painting is central to my practice as an artist. By this, I do not mean that it is to the exclusion of all other activities such as drawing, collage and printmaking that are integral to the work that I produce on canvas. As a painter, I work in series which allows me to focus and explore the subject in depth.”
Day Bowman has exhibited in galleries and museums in UK and Europe, most recently in 2013 at the Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool and Spacex in Exeter. She had a museum tour of South West England in 2011/12 and was commissioned to create a series of images blown up for hoardings to mark the Olympic sailing at Weymouth in 2012. Day has paintings in public and private collections.
PREVIOUS EXHIBITIONS :
Jenny Blyth Fine Art at Affordable Art Fair Battersea : October 2013.
Jenny Blyth Fine Art at London Art Fair : January 2013 .
URBAN WASTELANDS PROJECT 2010-12
Urban Wastelands Project toured South West in 2011/12. It started its UK tour at the Black Swan Arts as part of the Frome Arts Festival in July 2011, then toured to Dorchester Arts Centre, Kelly Ross Fine Art at The Art Stable, Dorset and travelled on to Quay Arts, Isle of Wight in February 2012. Currently showing at Atkinson Gallery, Somerset.
URBAN WASTELANDS PROJECT
New paintings by DAY BOWMAN
Catalogue essay by Jenny Blyth :
Urban Wastelands Project currently touring South West, started its UK tour at the Black Swan Arts as part of the Frome Arts Festival in July 2011, then toured to Dorchester Arts Centre, Kelly Ross Fine Art at The Art Stable, Dorset and travelled on to Quay Arts, Isle of Wight in February 2012. Currently showing at Atkinson Gallery, Somerset. Catalogue essay by Jenny Blyth :
When we cast our mind to the British coastline, we may recall blustery winds on high cliff tops and beautiful beaches, or by contrast that singularly British phenomenon of piers and fun fairs. Day Bowman’s view of the British coastline is another vision entirely. For her it is the last frontier of wilderness. Growing up in Minehead in the fifties, she far preferred the beach out of season, and the long stretches of empty sands. “I like that out of season emptiness, the windswept promenade, ripped hoardings, and closed-up shops and stalls.” There is evidence of settlements around Minehead that go back to the Bronze Age, but the port at Minehead was established in the late 1300’s and over five centuries grew to a thriving port, trading not only with Ireland and Wales for livestock, wool and coal, but sending ships as far a field as the West Indies and Virginia. As the ‘glory days’ of the Industrial Age declined, Minehead was developed by the Edwardians into a residential seaside town, popular for holidays and retirement. The architecture of discarded industry is however still evident in the landscape, and it is this industrial wasteland that fires Day Bowman’s new paintings. When pressed for the source of fascination for a landscape that is on the surface bleak, Bowman speaks in part of memory and loss. The childhood years that she spent exploring those wastelands had made a profound impression on her, but it was the departure from Minehead in primary years, a consequence of her parents separation, that triggered a longing and wistfulness for a landscape that to her remains exciting and dynamic - pyramids of coal too high to scramble over, reels of barbed wire, and hollow pipes large enough to walk through. But Bowman’s journey of discovery through painting goes far beyond the personal, and it is exciting to see how her narrative unravels. “When we think of the seaside we think of beautiful beaches, but much of our coastline is not like that. It is often a strange and unfamiliar wilderness. I find that the overlooked corners of our island offer an alternative view of architecture and how it has shaped the landscape”. “Water Zones” and “Urban Wastelands” evolved out of earlier more personal projects such as “The Compass” and “Sandmarking Series”, her focus shifting from seaside resorts and beaches to the ‘edgelands’ of a post-industrial era that border much of our coastline. Bowman has broadened her narrative to embrace not only personal but also collective memories associated with transmigration. Introducing a sense of movement and journeying into the fabric of her work, Bowman reflects on the architecture of industrial wasteland created from disused quays, rusting hulks and oil drums that mark the point of departure and arrival for an ongoing exchange of stowaways, sailors and immigrants across the ages. Presented in association with “Jonah and The Whale,”a short film beautifully composed by award-winning film maker Ian Knox, and music by Steve Harris, “Water Zones” marked a turning point for Bowman, in which she identified and developed an alphabet of language with which to paint. Her alphabet consists of the disused gasometers, discarded containers, the rusting detritus of metal from objects no longer relevant or useful. The language that she has created celebrated the physicality and form of those objects, a literally hard edged and flinty figuration where those objects became paramount. You can see clearly looking at her composition in Water Zones and Urban Wastelands that Bowman’s painting has grown out of collage, and indeed she remains faithful to that medium in smaller works. Having mastered the alphabet of the objects that informed Water Zones, she created Urban Wastelands using a language in which she has become fluent, and by freeing up her composition, she is able to create large beautiful contemporary paintings that fly. She describes the process as having “to forget what you have learned, to loosen up and to simply make these marks which have now become a part of me”. Her new body of abstracted paintings have therefore grown out of figuration, and are most successful on that hairline where figuration meets abstraction. Bowman retains her edge, but flat colour planes, ink spills and ribbons of colour interleave the shapes that reference symbols and marks which once were gasometers, containers and hollow piping. Through abstraction, and in spite of the gravitas of the narrative, there is a sense of delight in her gestural marking whereby the compositions become more about space, form, light and texture and the sheer enjoyment of painting. You can clearly perceive her influences and favoured masters, the colour and space of Irwin and De Kooning, the movement and dynamic of Bacon. Her palette is unfettered by the base subject matter where peach pinks and oranges sit unashamedly alongside gun metal grey. The Urban Wastelands Project presents paintings by Day Bowman in association with a remake of Ian Knox’s “Jonah and The Whale”, and music from Trans Global Underground “Unite – A gathering of Strangers”. The music of Trans Global Underground is a haunting fusion of cultural influences from Arabic “Call to Prayer” to Celtic Folk. Infused with sadness and the longing for homes left far behind, the songs are set to the rhythmic beating of electronic instruments which echo the imagery of Knox’s film and the texture and surface of concrete and metal inherent in Bowman’s paintings. Embracing geopolitical issues of mass transmigration, The Urban Wastelands Project is a compelling journey through the tough forgotten corners of our marine wastelands that is both brittle and beautiful.
BELIEF & BEYOND
Paintings by DAY BOWMAN and MICHÈLE JAFFÉ PEARCE
5 March - 12 May 2012
BELIEF & BEYOND is an exhibition of new paintings by two contemporary London artists which will be held in the first floor exhibition space of Barclays flagship Piccadilly Branch in the heart of London’s West End. The exhibition curated by Jenny Blyth has been arranged with the support of Barclays Premier Banking.
Day Bowman’s exhibition The Urban Wastelands Project has been touring the South West of UK since July 2011. Michèle Jaffé Pearce is involved with The Three Faiths Forum and exhibited at the Interfaith Arts Festival organised by TFF at the Candid Arts Trust, Islington in January 2010. Jenny Blyth, curator and fine art consultant, is based in Oxford.
Michèle Jaffé-Pearce trained in Fine Art at Sir John Cass and thereafter studied sculpture at Chelsea School of Art. Her painting is founded in a contemporary expression of faith through an exploration of Jewish mysticism, Chassidic stories, biblical poetry and the Hebrew alphabet. Michèle uses symbolism and abstraction to create spiritual pathways on a journey of belief. Strong colour and form asserts a vibrant sense of optimism and a spirit of renewal.
Day Bowman’s painting takes us on a compelling journey beyond our habitual comfort zones to the wild and deserted industrial wastelands that fringe our urban abode and infrastructure and our designated coastal countryside. Her paintings, which are both brittle and beautiful, celebrate these tough and forgotten ‘Edgelands’, exploring the twilight zone between figuration and abstraction. Day Bowman studied painting at Chelsea School of Art and London University.