Dean Bowen Essay
Published Wednesday, 2 January 2002Dean Bowen embellishes the human figure with lyricism and wit. Quirky figures
relate to either a personal account or a peculiar narrative. His playful
treatment of the figure disguises the technical difficulties of his printmaking
techniques and casting process. The simple yet effective imagery alludes to the
historical art movement known as l? art brut (Brut Art) especially the work of Jean Dubuffet.
Image: The Little Man, 31 x 27 x 8cm, Bronze, 1997.
Bowen's work is deceptively simple, emphasising the expressive potential of
rendering the figure in 'primitive' and naïve style. It is the raw quality
of the treatment of the human figure and the illustrative accounts of human
experiences that make his work so enduring to the audience. A literal
representation of events are not of interest to Bowen, rather it is the
summation of the event or story through his own personality that is important.
Within his stylistic treatment of the subject matter he captures the essence of
the event, often being autobiographical.
Technical skills involved in constructing Bowen's imagery demand a
sophisticated knowledge of printmaking. He produces multi colour work on soft
and hard ground plates each colour coming from a separate plate. However it
should be noted that the size and number of coloured plates printed in his work
requires a great deal of skill and expertise. The artist explores what is the
best material to be employed in his body of work, often opting to develop a
subject into a number of media such as drawing, printmaking and sculpture.
Throughout the exploration and experimentation of his style and subject matter
Bowen's constantly addresses the conceptual concern of his art in terms of the
autobiographical and experiential.
In Bowen's work the figure establishes an intrinsic symbols of self-identity
and experience, the figure fulfils a visual exploration of self and explanation
of experiences. Characterisation of the form to the story, that is the
character's form reveals it's psychological state graphically, is the primary
convention employed by Bowen; his playful and naïve figures surpass any
need to depict reality. Fantasy and idiosyncratic accounts of life are the
integral components of his work demonstrating the sophisticated form of
pictorial representation, which negates a visual reality in favour of a
'presence' of the subject. His figures become symbols for the 'essence of
life'; often depicting a uniquely Australian experience Bowen allows the
audience into his own world of encounters. His expressive treatment of the
figure lyrically materialises experiences past and present. He successfully
constructs visual accounts of his personal life that tells far more than a
domestic photograph or oral story could ever offer.
By Craig Malyon
Questions on the Artist
Dean Bowen's work is recognised as being uniquely Australian - examine his
images and sculptures in term of a cultural identity.
Bowen's art has been identified as being naïve or primitive. Explain what
these terms mean as a visual convention in painting.
His work is clearly autobiographical. Select one print or sculpture that
relates to a specific narrative and give account of the story in your own
Bowen explores the use of a number of expressive forms (media) to create a body
of work. Discuss this approach to his artmaking making specific reference to
Bowen's work has been described as developing a larrikin aesthetic.
What is meant by this use examples to support your response?
Jean Michel Basquiat