Portrait: Ben and Sacha with their artist father Frank Bowling's painting
A retrospective of the work of abstract expressionist Frank Bowling OBE RA, whose 1960s painting ‘Cover Girl’ features in my LRG double portrait of his sons, opens at Tate Britain tomorrow until 26 August 2019.
The work in oils featured in the Lots Road Group’s exhibition last year Connected: the changing face of Britain and explains, in the divisive times of Brexit, how the artist is connected to his sons.
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Ben, on the left of the painting, says: “Cover Girl’ is one of dad’s 60s pop-art painting that points to his future abstract work. Above the female figure is a stencilled image of Bowling’s Variety Store, Frank’s childhood home in New Amsterdam, British Guiana. The painting connects we two brothers, born in the 1969s, with our father, his art and autobiographical references that are part of our heritage.”
On graduating with a silver medal in painting from the Royal College in 1962, Frank Bowling left London for New York, fleeing attempts to pigeon-hole and exclude him from the mainstream of British art. After years of transatlantic commuting he settled in London where, in his eighties, he still paints every day. His Tate Britain retrospective will establish Frank as one of today’s most brilliant painters and illustrates, in vivid colour, how Britain has changed in the last half century.
My connection with my sitters: I met Ben when studying with his German wife Susi and was introduced to Frank at one of Ben and Susi’s Christmas parties. Nowadays, I meet Susi and Ben at the Tate whenever I’m teaching drawing there for Sketchout Recently, Ben, who’s a Professor of Criminology at Kings College, London and writes songs and performs with his band ‘Doc Bowling and his Blues Professors’ as does his wife Susi, a senior lecturer at Goldsmiths, jointly commissioned me to draw Johannes, their saxophonist son, as I now specialise in portraying performers.
Early last year I noticed one of Frank’s Tate paintings was missing – Mirror, on loan to the Royal Academy – and Ben explained that he and Sacha are starting to help their father to manage his formidable body of work held in private and public collections worldwide and the idea for the painting was born!
The Changing Face of Britain by the Lots Road Group