Frank Bowling: Mappa Mundi
For the uninitiated, the book title is a telling one as it zeros in on Frank Bowling’s large-scale map paintings, which are more often than not of borderline monumental scale. Location and history have always been major sources of inspiration for Bowling, who channeled these via muted yet fiery nuances combined with oceanic tinges to transport the beholder into spheres where landscapes and space are redefined.
What I like most about Bowling’s oeuvre is that it evokes an almost physical power when he outlines the shapes of continents, as they seem to float on lava against backdrops of warm and radiant expanses and chromatic spaces.
Digging deeper, Bowling’s cinematic paintings deal with identify, ethnicity, the sense of belonging, Heimat(losigkeit) and ever changing territorial claims.
In a day and age where migration is more relevant a topic than ever, Bowling meaning infused abstract works create awareness for geopolitical transformations that are never not in flux.
Mappa Mundi is homage to a six-decade spanning career of a unique artist that questioned formalism, moved away from mere representation early on in his career and has developed a style of his own with explorations of colours, tactility and transparency that remain unrivalled.
The fact that Bowling’s art is framed by essays and curatorial notes as well as writings of the artists, helps to explore not only the artist but also map out his journey and his personal world.