Audrey Bowling is primarily known for her very textural, mixed-media, abstract work.
Born in Enfield in 1962 her first memories of art were of drawing, as many children do, trees with branches and flying birds with their beaks and feet readily visible. She remembers sitting in the garden, being coached by her much older brother to look at the birds and the trees and notice what she could actually see rather than drawing what she knew to be there:
“Could she really see the legs and beaks of the birds flying so high up in the sky?”
“Could she see all the branches of the trees when they were in full leaf?”
This early lesson helped her really see the world, its shadows and shapes and started a life-long love of drawing.
At school she studied art to A-level, but realising that the fine art world was very competitive and lacking any family background or knowledge of how to find a path within it, she fell into a career in the civil service, keeping art as a hobby. Eventually after leaving the civil service in 2013, she decided to pursue her love of art more actively.
Acrylic on paper
The first painting after leaving work
When she first stopped working in the civil service, Audrey was unsure whether she could still draw. Her final job involved long hours and a lot of travelling that meant art was pushed way down the list. She took a course in acrylic painting and was pleased to discover that the ability was still there.
At school when mixing line and wash with acrylic she was very firmly told by her teacher “You mustn’t mix different mediums in your work” and as a consequence had shied away from this ever since. However, by this time, her interest in art had grown from representational to a love of contemporary and abstract art. A bridge between the representational and acrylic
was to make paintings of flowers in close-up.
Whilst working on her acrylic skills, Audrey was also learning to spin yarn. She had for a number of years crocheted garments and worked on freeform pieces, something she could do whilst travelling for her work. The desire to make her own yarn and incorporate this into her artwork increased. Looking around for a mixed media course to help her in this aspect led her to meet Neil Payne a mixed-media drawing tutor in Cambridge.
The title comes from a quotation:
“All things are in the act of change;
thou thyself in ceaseless transformation and partial decay, and the whole universe with thee." - Marcus Aurelius Antonius
One example of her almost textile art works is "Ceaseless Transformation", which began life as a photograph taken of an old tree stump alongside the River Tay in Perth, Scotland, which had fungus and lichen growing over it. It incorporates stitching, hand spun yarn and beading over the top of a collagraph printed onto material.
Audrey has travelled widely and allows the views, colours and cultures she experiences to inform her work. Drawing on memories and photographs to capture elements of those journeys.
During the course with Neil, she learnt to work more freely and finally found someone who encouraged her ideas of working with several different media. Throughout this time she has been learning to let the materials talk to her, allowing her hands to shape her feelings and thoughts by instinct. The result is work that has that textural feel.
In more recent years, Audrey has taken to picking up any metallic object found lying in the street. A love of the way the metal rusts and scratches, she now incorporates in her works some of the “found objects” she has gathered over time, as seen in "Gearing Up".