Dean Bowen’s works are characterised by vibrant colour, environmental symbolism and dynamic composition. His depiction of objects, people, insects and animals share the artist’s quirky and infectious sense of humour whilst also reminding us of our common struggles and triumphs. Drawing inspiration from the everyday bustle of the world and the naivete of children, Bowen’s work combines a bright, storybook sensibility with bold, joyous colours.
His paintings, sculptures and prints where movement and inertia collide inviting inspection of calamity versus calm. Primal, reductive images are reinforced with recurring motifs, signposted structures of symbols which resonate inherently to even the uninitiated or innocent first-time viewer.
A major monograph of Dean Bowen’s work was published in 2009 by Macmillan Art Publishing: Argy Bargy which documents Dean Bowen’s artworks over a twenty year period, includes 228 pages, richly illustrated with over 160 colour and black and white images including painting, sculpture, printmaking, tapestry and animation. The monograph is a comprehensive overview of Bowen’s artistic career with extensive biographical details and features a major essay by leading Art Historian and Curator, Sheridan Palmer.
Dean’s work is in many significant collections including the National Gallery of Australia, Australian War Memorial, Bibliotheque Nationale (Paris) and the Contemporary Art and Culture Centre (Japan).
Lorkie was a Roofbird. His best friend was Brian, and they had been friends since they were eggs.They lived in the Valley of Roofs, where every bird had a song to sing except Lorkie. Lorkie couldn’t sing, until he found a new home in the middle of the Argy-Bargy roundabout.
My kids are absolutely ob-sessed with this book & role play the key characters, Lorkie, his best friend Brian & his sister, Sweetheart – a precious & amazing gift for the young & young at heart ! Brilliant pictures from Bowen harmonise perfectly with Jennifer Castles’ sweet and surprising text in this delightful book for kid and parents to read aloud together. Published by Allen & Unwin, A Song For Lorkie, is a joyful, optimistic picture book about a bird finding his place in the world and the song in his heart.
“Situating himself within the paradigms of the marginal outsider, Bowen established quite early in his career an attraction to the principles of informal art or Art Brut, Outsider Art, which later included the influences of Art Primitif, African art and some Australian Aboriginal art. Certainly, Bowen shares an aesthetic rapport with Gaston Chaissac, Jean Debuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Georges de Chirico, Ferndinand Leger, Pablo Picasso and Niki de Saint Phalle.” – Sheridan Palmer, Argy-Bargy.
“Art must make you laugh a little and make you a little afraid. Anything as long as it doesn’t bore.” Jean Dubuffet.
Dean also plays with aspects of scale reflecting on both the monumental as well as the miniature. Simple pleasures of the natural world serve as a narrative backdrop to illustrate human temperament. The autonomy of the bird and insect world, act out our most innate and understood rituals and memories, evoked and known. They are art maps, emblematic of our own gridded lives – and of gestural immediacy.
His grandmother’s enormous collection of pets and the tapping of avian feet on his studio roof have led to a lifelong fascination with bird subjects. Growing up in the country town of Maryborough, in central Victoria, he learnt about the rules of nature and function of human beings in both the natural and man-made environments. Bowen absorbed the colours, textures, sounds and scents – visual and sensory elements that permeate his work.
I am always fascinated by the artists’ palette & work spaces – add lots of sandy grit into the mix & the layered iconographical journeys on canvas take months to completely dry, forming a unique skin of their own. The mid-morning natural light streams through the studio casting incredible shadows, illuminating and highlighting surfaces that dance with maquette bronze sculptures dotting the workspaces along the plasterboard walls, punctuated with prints.
The kookaburra is an emblematic aussie icon – illustrating Bowen’s connection and concern for conservation. Much of his oeuvre draws our attention to the push-pull duality whereby human nature supports not controls nature. This completeness or vulnerability of this relationship is highlighted as a constant state of flux.
Works on paper are another important part of Bowens’ prolific and prodigenous output. Lithographs, etchings, woodcuts form another layer to his many mediums. Both my 4 year old twins awaken every morning to their own framed birdies above their beds. (As you can probably tell by now, I have rather a soft spot for Mr.Bowen & his images- my son took his first steps toward a bird painting, shouting gleeful, ‘twee-twee Mumma!’ )
A regular exhibitor in Japan, Bowen’s work has well-received over time. The vast open-ness of the depicted landscapes offer an interior view of this ‘otherness’ to a culture which thrives on an existence of contained spaces, in itself an art form.
Dean Bowen has been exhibiting paintings, bronze sculpture and prints in solo and group exhibitions throughout Australia and internationally for over 25 years. Bowen has held over 60 solo exhibitions in Australia, France, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. He has received a number of major sculpture commissions and awards including the Colas Foundation Commission, Paris, France 2010; 1st International Print Biennial of Beijing 2000; and the Daikin Industries Prize, Osaka Print Triennale, Japan 1997.
The Stockroom’s director, Michel Lawrence asks about the birds and the bees here in this fab chat:
For further enquiries regarding artist Dean Bowen’s work please contact: email@example.com or call Vicki on +613 404 861 438.