How painting saved Frank Bowling’s life

'Let the material flow': Frank Bowling in his studio
'Let the material flow': Frank Bowling in his studio

I ask Frank Bowling what he wants viewers to get from Tate Britain’s exhibition of his paintings, spanning 60 years of work. His answer is a modest proposal that belies wildly eccentric procedures. “I want the materials to speak to people, as intensely as possible.”

To make his paintings work he throws and pours paint, only sometimes brushes it, and gets others to throw and brush too. He encourages children to chuck plastic toys into colour bulked up with thick acrylic medium. When grandchildren write him illustrated letters from their trips to Guyana, lovingly following the trails he used to go down on a bicycle in the Forties, he sticks their pages on to canvas, treating them as a kind of material...

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