Guyana-born artist: Frank Bowling- awarded Knighthood in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Frank Bowling in his South London studio, 2020, photo by Sacha Bowling,.

The Birthday Honours list recognises the achievements of a wide range of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom.

During his six-decades long career, Bowling’s relentless pursuit of excellence in painting underpins a lifetime of service to British art. At age 86, he still is an active painter with an irrepressible work ethic, working in his studio almost every day.       

Sir Frank says:

“I’ve set out on a quest to explore the possibilities of paint, and I find myself making something new every time. I have an insatiable determination to experiment with colour, form and process, to create new and original artworks that push the boundaries of the medium, while being intellectually grounded in post-war abstraction. The things that paint can achieve are so vast and diverse that I don’t think I’ll ever be done with it. Trained in the English art school tradition, my identity as a British artist has always been crucial to me and I have viewed London as my home since arriving in 1953 from what was then British Guiana.

To be recognised for my contribution to British painting and art history with a knighthood makes me extremely proud. Friends and family have played a role in my studio since the 1960s – as a husband, father, grandfather and recently a great-grandfather, I am honoured to sit at the centre of a modern family to whom I feel much gratitude.”

Ben and Sacha Bowling, the artist’s sons and studio directors say:

“Often described by critics as a late modern master, in many ways, recognition has come late in our father’s career. We are delighted he is getting this distinction now for his contribution to the canon of contemporary and modern art. He has shown dedication and dogged persistence in the face of obstacles throughout his life of painting, including having to deal with stereotypical associations made between his work and origins. It requires exceptional dedication to follow one’s own unique vision for decades, for much of the time with little reward. The whole family is overjoyed at this news. We couldn’t be prouder of all that our father has achieved.”

Frank Bowling is one of the leading British painters alive today. Over the past sixty years, his large-scale abstract canvases have explored the nature and possibilities of paint and pursued forms of expression, which are both nuanced and open-ended. In May 2019, a major retrospective of his work, subtitled “The Possibilities of Paint Are Never-Ending”, opened at Tate Britain to outstanding critical acclaim.

Born in Bartica, British Guiana, Mr Bowling moved to England in 1953. After doing his National Service in the Royal Air Force, Mr Bowling went on to study art, winning a scholarship to London’s Royal College of Art in 1959. His early paintings embedded layers of autobiography in abstraction, incorporating silkscreen images of his home and family members back in Guyana. It was not until moving to New York in 1966 that he made a decisive turn towards abstraction. The move soon won him two Guggenheim fellowships (1967, 1973), and a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 1971.

With an increasing focus on material, process, and colour, Mr Bowling developed a very personal palette for his large, light-filled, lyrical colour abstractions. It is during this period that Mr Bowling’s seminal ‘Map Paintings’ – a series of colour fields overlaid with stencilled maps of Australia, South America and Africa – was produced. Known also for his writings on art, particularly in debates around Formalism and ‘Black Art’, he has always vigorously rejected being defined by restrictive labels that sought to pigeonhole him, and in 2005 he became the first Black artist to be elected a Royal Academician.

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  • kamtanblog  On 10/11/2020 at 3:12 am

    Congratulations to Sir Frank
    Well done young man 👨 hope you
    live to enjoy many more years of recognition.
    HRH QE2 became queen in 1952 only 3 years
    before your arrival on uk shores…you are both
    very lucky to still be here with us.

    Bless you both !

    Kamtan 🇬🇾🇬🇧🇬🇾🇬🇧🇪🇸🇬🇧🌅

    • brandli62  On 10/11/2020 at 2:48 pm

      Kamtam, Sir Frank was also a RAF as you!

      Sir Frank is probably the Guyanese artist whose works are most prized on the international art market. One of his paintings sold for over 1 million dollars a year ago as reported in the New York Times.

      • kamtanblog  On 10/11/2020 at 2:54 pm

        Yep !
        Guyana got talent !

        Recognition by HRH QE2
        “Better late than never” !

        His friends and family must be overwhelmed
        with joy/sadness.

        Salute you Sir Frank

        Kamtan uk

  • brandli62  On 10/11/2020 at 3:04 pm

    Here a link to a short movie on Frank Bowling painting technique for those who want to know more:

    How to Paint Like Frank Bowling | Tate

    Discover how painter Frank Bowling creates dazzling, dripping compositions of colour.

    Frank Bowling was born in Guyana and moved to London to study Fine Art at the Royal Academy. To this day he continues to make work from his studios in London and New York.

    His paintings use a variety of bright acrylic paint colours and embedded objects that create unusual but mesmerising compositions. Two of his most well-known paintings in Tate’s collection include ‘Spreadout Ron Kitaj’ and ‘Sasha Jason Guyana Dreams’. Both of these paintings show how Bowling layers paint to create a deeply textured feel to his artworks.

    Bowling’s Studio Assistant, Spencer A. Richards, and his grandson Frederick Bowling took us to Bowling’s London studio to show us some of the techniques he uses in his work.

  • dhanpaul narine  On 10/12/2020 at 4:04 pm

    Congratulations Sir Frank, we are proud of you!

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