Marcia H Travels


Frank Bowling OBE RA ( British, born Guyana, 1936 )

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General Description

Frank Bowling’s Map Paintings refer to the cartographic outlines of countries and continents that haunt a series of abstract color paintings made between 1967 and 1972. Bowling created his map works by laying the canvas directly on the floor and spreading puddles of thinned acrylic paint across the surface of the canvas (often with wooden brooms) to create lustrous, coalescing veils of color. In earlier experiments, Bowling had used shadows cast by his studio window onto the floor as a means to create abstract shapes, but when he noticed that a partic­ular shadow seemed to assume the shape of the South American continent he realized that he had happened upon a motif for his painterly investigations. Recognizing the potential of this motif as a contrast to his color experi­ments, Bowling used an overhead projector to create accurate stencil outlines of South America and his native Guyana—later followed by Africa, Australia, and Asia. Bowling employed the maps to address certain formal problems he faced as he began to explore color as its own subject. They acted succinctly as an organizational tool that could shape, hold, and anchor color to the picture surface in such a way as to ensure intensity of focus and preserve overall visual excitement.

Excerpt from

  • Anna Katherine Brodbeck, ed., TWO X TWO X TWENTY: Two Decades Supporting Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art), 2018, 230-231.

Web Resources

  • Tate
    Learn more about Bowling's poured paintings and his working methods.

  • Tate
    Watch Bowling discuss his transition from figuration to abstraction.