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WHO IS…FRANK BOWLING?

Posted 9 December 2015 by Kat

What a mess! Or is it? Take a look at this busy painting by artist Frank Bowling. What do you see?

Frank Bowling, Spreadout Ron Kitaj, 1984–6, © Frank Bowling

Frank Bowling, Spreadout Ron Kitaj, 1984–6, © Frank Bowling

What if you knew this work of art wasn’t just made with paint, but with Christmas glitter, jewellery, foam, and oyster shells? And even toys! There’s even a drawing by the artist’s young son hidden underneath. Frank Bowling took all of these things, arranged them on a canvas, and then got to work smothering them in colourful paint, layer after layer.

It’s okay if you can’t see all of those things, because the artist wanted to hide them under all of that paint.

Frank Bowling did this because he was friends with the Abstract Expressionists, who thought that paint, colours, and patterns were just as important as people and other stuff we can recognise in paintings.

But he didn’t start that way. Bowling started painting in the 1960s in London, where he was friends with Pop artists like David Hockney.

Frank Bowling, Mirror, 1966, © Frank Bowling

Frank Bowling, Mirror, 1966, © Frank Bowling

Can you find the chair, the staircase, and the bright yellow tap? What about people – how many do you see? This painting was made when Bowling still thought people (or figures) were an important part of his paintings.

He even painted himself in it! Once at the top and once at the bottom of the stairs. At the top he’s drawn himself with lines, and at the bottom he’s messy and smudged, almost like he’s turning into paint!

The more paintings Bowling made, the more they were about colours and smudges. After moving to New York City in 1966, he became more and more interested in splashing, dripping, and spilling paint on a canvas to create all kinds of effects.

Frank Bowling Who’s Afraid of Barney Newman 1968 © Frank Bowling

Frank Bowling
Who’s Afraid of Barney Newman,  1968 c. Frank Bowling

He also thought colours could tell stories on their own.

What do the green, yellow, and red in this painting make you feel? Do they mean anything to you?

These colours had special meaning to Bowling, because they make up the flag of Guyana. That’s the country in South America where he was born.

But what are those fuzzy outlines in the middle of the painting? If you know your geography, you might be able to recognise them as maps! The one in the middle is of South America, and the one at the top is Guyana.

Why do you think the artist included these maps in his painting? Maps aren’t just lines we put on the globe. They can be symbols of who we are, and where we come from.

So when Frank Bowling made this painting, he wanted us to think about the power of colours. But he also wanted to share his identity with us, through symbols in a painting. “This is who I am!” it says.

What do you think of Bowling’s artwork? What does it say to you? Let us know in the comments below.

You could even have a go at making your own Abstract Expressionist artworks in one of the Tate Kids games!

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WHO IS…BERNARD COHEN?

Posted 14 October 2015 by Kat

Do you think this painting looks like electric wires? Or maybe Day-Glo worms? A critic once said it looked like coloured spaghetti. It is actually one single wobbly line that the artist has covered the whole surface of the painting with.

Bernard Cohen, In That Moment, 1965. © Bernard Cohen

Bernard Cohen, In That Moment, 1965. © Bernard Cohen

The picture is called In the Moment and was painted by Bernard Cohen in 1965. Cohen was a British painter who was interested in the process of painting. He wanted to explore lots of different ways of making a painting. This makes him similar to the Abstract expressionist artists who were working in America in the 1950s.

He liked to experiment with different techniques, like scraping the paint over the canvas, using stencils and spray paint.

Have a look at this painting:

Bernard Cohen, Matter of Identity III - The Trace, 1977–9 © Bernard Cohen

Bernard Cohen, Matter of Identity III – The Trace, 1977–9 © Bernard Cohen

Can you see how he has scrapped the paint across the canvas and then used stencils to paint pictures of aeroplanes on top?

There are six different objects in this painting:

aeroplanes
paddles
paw marks
tables
explosions
windows

See if you can find them all.

The painting was inspired by a flight Cohen took from London to Dallas in America. It was a very clear day and he could see a patchwork of different colours and images below him.

Cohen went to the Slade School of Fine Art in London in the early 1950s and then he lived in Paris for two years where he studied lots of French artists. When he returned to England he began to make paintings that were abstract. He even became the Director of the Slade School of art and inspired many students there.

Do you think you could make your own Bernard Cohen-inspired artwork? Maybe have a go on one of the Tate Kid Games! Let us know what you think of the work in the comments below.

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WHO IS…MARK ROTHKO?

Posted 18 September 2015 by Kat

This painting is by the artist Mark Rothko. He was an Abstract Expressionist (kind of like Jackson Pollock). He wanted to paint human emotions.

Mark Rothko, Untitled c.1950–2. © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher  c. Tate

Mark Rothko, Untitled c.1950–2. © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher c. Tate

What kind of emotion do you think he has painted here?

Rothko thought that the greatest paintings were the ones that captured a sense of stillness, and that is what he tried to do.

He painted rectangles with fuzzy edges. Why do you think he made them look blurry? It’s a bit like looking through binoculars before they have been focused.

Mark Rothko, Light Red Over Black 1957, © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS c Tate

Mark Rothko, Light Red Over Black 1957, © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS c Tate

Do you think the rectangles are floating? Rothko wanted you to think they might be.

Rothko was born in Latvia in 1903, but when he was ten his family moved to America. He studied painting at Yale University and then became one of ‘The Ten’, a group of ambitious young artists who wanted to promote abstract art in America.

This painting is one of a series Rothko made when he was at the height of his fame.

Mark Rothko, Black on Maroon 1958, © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998 c. Tate

Mark Rothko, Black on Maroon 1958, © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998 c. Tate

There is a strange story attached to it. In 1957 Rothko was commissioned to make a series of paintings for a very expensive restaurant in New York. The problem was that Rothko didn’t want his paintings to be hung where rich people were eating, but he thought it might be interesting to see if he could make paintings that were so dark and oppressive they would put the diners off their food!

He made a series of black and maroon pictures that were very sombre. When they were finished he decided not to give them to the restaurant and gave them to Tate instead. They are called The Segram Murals.

Mark Rothko, Red on Maroon Mural, Section 2 1959 Tate. Presented by the artist through the American Federation of Arts 1969 © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Mark Rothko, Red on Maroon Mural, Section 2 1959
Tate. Presented by the artist through the American Federation of Arts 1969 © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Rothko died a year after donating the murals to Tate and he is now considered to be one of the finest abstract artists in America.

You can come see Rothko’s paintings at Tate Modern today! How do these paintings make you feel? Let us know in the comments below!

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WHO IS…JACKSON POLLOCK?

Posted 17 June 2015 by Kat

Who is that man making a mess on the floor? Why that’s Jackson Pollock and he is a really cool artist!

Jackson Pollock, 1950 Photograph by Hans Namuth Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona © 1991 Hans Namuth Estate

Jackson Pollock, 1950
Photograph by Hans Namuth Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
© 1991 Hans Namuth Estate

Pollock is a famous American artist who invented a new way of painting called Action painting.

He dripped paint onto a large canvas on the floor. It was called Action painting because Pollock would move very quickly across the painting, dribbling the paint in long, wobbly lines. Sometimes he threw the paint onto the canvas and some of his paintings still have footprints on them where he stepped in the paint.

Pollock was born in 1912 in Wyoming in America. When he was eighteen he moved to New York and trained as a mural painter. This meant he was used to working on a very large scale and so the idea of painting on a big canvas didn’t scare him at all.

In 1943 a very rich art collector called Peggy Guggenheim asked him to make a mural for her. Pollock was so excited that he ripped down a wall in his house so that he could fit a 20 foot canvas inside. Peggy was very pleased with the painting and she gave him an exhibition at her gallery.

Pollock was a member of the Abstract Expressionist group, these were young New York artists who made paintings that were non-representational, meaning they didn’t look like anything. Instead, they tried to show emotions, like happiness or anger.

The Abstract Expressionists were also influenced by a form of Surrealist art called Automatism.

Do you know what Automatism is?

Get a piece of paper and a pencil. Put your pencil on the paper. Then close your eyes and let your pencil draw all over the paper. Now open your eyes. You have just made your first piece of Automatism.

You could also use the same technique in the Tate Create Jazzy Drips.

This painting is called Summertime, Number 9A, 1948. It was made at a happy time in Pollock’s life when he had just moved to a farmhouse in the countryside with his wife.

Jackson Pollock, Summertime: Number 9A 1948, © Pollock - Krasner Foundation, Inc.

Jackson Pollock, Summertime: Number 9A 1948, © Pollock – Krasner Foundation, Inc.

Do you think it is a sunny painting?

Pollock also enjoyed listening to music, and the title could refer to a popular song called Summertime by George Gershwin. Jackson Pollock died in 1956, but his work continues to inspire artists from all over the world to experiment and invent other ways of painting.

We are super excited at Tate because there is an awesome Jackson Pollock exhibition at Tate Liverpool! Plus there are some amazing free activities for you guys too, like Paint Archery! We can’t wait! :)

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