4×4΄x 2˝ Doodle – Eddy Bowen

To whom is this honour bestowed? Eddie Bowens’ recent works of a small showing of relatively large canvases and smaller framed paintings on paper, CCA7, Trinidad,West Indies

The crème of Trinidad and Tobago’s Contemporary Artists forgave their differences and gathered for a group photograph at Caribbean Contemporary Arts, Trinidad. This was a rare portrait with Charlotte Elias, the director of CCA7, Steve Ouditt, Che Lovelace, Robert Yao Ramesar and Eddie Bowen all together posed with the friendliest of intent, which added to the pretense of an exhibition entitled, 9×5 to the power of 2, a mumbo-jumbo of theoretical Artspeak not worth thinking about and an exhibition lacking some “Heart.”

The InterAmericas gallery and reception wall is host to a series of Eddie Bowen’s recent works of primitive paintings that depict dwellings, fences, shrubs, tribal markings, and architectural aerial plans. If there is symbolism represented here, the Artist has envisioned a topographical and urban landscape or a poor diluted version of Basquiat’s iconography over muted colour. Mr. Bowen paints by applying layers of acrylic washes where he scores, indents or “doodles”on the canvas with blunt tipped tools before the paint dries. This generates a textual stippled pattern that outlines the four or five geometric divisions in each canvas. He composes the work by filling in each block with a wash of opaque colour and repeats the method until his tonal consistency is achieved, producing a sort of kindergarten crayon etching. These paintings look quite crude because of the slapdash or casual way Mr. Bowen attempts to over correct or adjust each composition, and the final is a muddy canvas. One note of interest is however, that the use of titanium white is deliberately dabbed to form grids or to fill-in the centre of one of his canvas’ aboriginal pictograms, on the other it is a front plan view of a descending staircase.

Mr. Bowen’s attempt it to find a new visual metaphor

The adjacent exhibition of coloured drawings and collages hung in the CCA foyer are more pronounced showing the edifices, entrances, walkways and optical illusions of structures and workings, inside-out. Mr. Bowen’s stronger work, which is not on display is his complex kinetic pencil drawings that depicts his inner obsession with mechanics, cogs, rods, and mathematics. 9x5 to the power of 2 is a rehash of the loosely based concepts of architectural schematics and as the Artists states;

“…..The works explore and stretch techniques in acrylics. The attempt it to find a new visual metaphor, or to break new ground in the articulation of the landscape.”

Left from center

For those of us familiar with the work of Edward Bowen, affectionately known as Eddy, one expects a pastiche of strong personal drawing style on a scale that gets the work noticed. Over the years Mr. Bowen has not only experimented with his love of pencil sketching of architectural elements, but has looked at working in alternative spaces. His has been a very long and solitary career, much informed by his desire and love of the work for itself. He is one of the rare contained artists, whose works happen despite support. With all of that said, this latest offering from Mr. Bowen entitled 9 x 5 features a group of largecanvases of architectural structures. What is relevant about these pieces is his investigation of colour. There is a lot to look at in these pieces. I recall the recent experimental works of David Hockney, a delight of colours and scraping textural surfaces. But these investigations are not about being pretty, but about looking at the complexity of structures as they age and change in meaning. I enjoyed being able to look at the canvases squarely, looking all around and through the technique at what I believe to be his narrative about all of the contradictions of our world at this time.

Right from centre

One piece featured a mottled, almost decorative pattern as another showed a controlled wash, a dripping of colour, ala Jackson Pollock. Experimental techniques on this scale is daring in Trinidad and Tobago. This is not work on the level of a Carlyle Harris or LeRoy Clarke who have used undercolouring to various degrees of success use thetechnique to engage a stronger foreground of characters or forms.

The unwritten rule of thumb for such work is either complete such aforementioned works or complete abstraction as can be seen in the works of Ken Crichlow and Pat Bishop. None of these artists dare sully the colour, the very idea of going brown or mixing into oblivion what is found in the raw is not assessed. Mr. Bowen does the opposite. He immerses the drawing with colour, as though distorting it to be found by the viewer, producing a nearly dirty palette. In his drawings, feaured outside the InterAmericas space, he continues to explore architectural drawings with collage technique. It is as though he is doing the inverse, looking at a dark, muddy palette andordering it with colour. On an island where pretty art is the order of the day, I find Mr. Bowen’s attempt to expose the underpinnings of this deal with beauty amidst chaos an admirable exploration indeed. – Adele

Town and Country.

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