Looking at Clear Days with Robert Bowers May 29 2018
Robert Bowers is a Melbourne-based artist. Growing up in the Dandenong Ranges, he was always surrounded by lush foliage on his adventures, and found it a great source of inspiration. Memories of helping his parents in their garden also contribute to his tendency to depict the natural world.
Robert has been refining his painting techniques for over a decade. A tropical, colourful setting suffuses many of his paintings, creating a warm palette and mood. His paintings typically highlight lost scenes set within a jungle landscape, sometimes including hidden figures, both human and animal.
Having held numerous solo exhibitions across Australia over his career, Robert has also been shown in numerous exhibitions further abroad; including New York, London and Singapore.
We spoke with Rob about the formulation of his imagery, the effect of wildlife on his art, and his day-to-day activities as an artist working from home.
Can you tell us about your subject matter and how you came about creating this imagery?
My upcoming show Clear Days explores the relationship between Melbourne architecture, and its surrounding landscape in a suburban context. Highlighting the contrast between man-made forms and organic, natural surroundings. This body of work expands on my recent architecture series: a mix of realism and abstraction that exaggerates the subject and adds a new layer of meaning. Clear Days references the ideal conditions in which I shoot the content. The paintings are loosely based from these photographs taken whilst exploring different areas all over Melbourne.
You’ve had a long standing connection with wildlife in your work. How has that evolved as your body of work has grown through the years?
Yes, wildlife was the main focus in a lot of my older works. It's something that I still draw upon from time to time, however the animals are normally found in dense foliage settings with the focus on their surroundings rather then them.
In your more recent works, urban landscapes become more prominent sharing the canvas with the much loved natural habitats you create. What draws you to a particular scene or landscape?
These landscape paintings all started from the view out my bedroom window. It was the lighting that day that made me notice the variation of colours and vegetation from one property to the next. I have since become much more aware of the plant life in our suburbs and take many photographs while walking around different neighbourhoods. Higher vantage points are always an interesting reference for me, a different perspective on the subjects.
Do you consciously catalogue time and place through your paintings?
Sometimes. Most of the landscapes are referenced from photos I've taken, however I always like to add more elements of vegetation to give the work an 'overgrown' feel. The final painting is usually much different to the place it was originally referenced from.
Share with us a typical day in your life and your creative process.
I work from home, so it doesn’t take me long to get stuck into things in the mornings. First thing is emails. I try to get them all ticked off before I start working, but sometimes I’m pretty bad and leave them to think over for a while. Then it's a quick look over the work I’ve created the previous day, finding new ideas or just refreshing my memory. If starting a new painting I’ll work on the big fills and backgrounds first. It’s a good warm up and nice way to get into things.
Snack breaks are a regular feature throughout the day and I try to get outside for lunch. I'm straight back into it after that and won't stop painting for a couple more hours. Multiple paintings are always on the go for me. I'll work on a few different pieces throughout the day as I tend to get tired of a single piece.
By 5pm I need to get outside. I've always enjoyed running, it's a good time to clear your mind and enjoy some fresh air. Dinner comes next. After that I turn up the music and normally squeeze in another hour or two of painting.
Your work has gone through a broad range of media and treatments. Are there other media that you would like to explore?
I've always enjoyed working with timber. It's a material that I've grown up with and was surrounded by. There are still so many things to try out with this material, like bigger sculptures. Clay is the other material I'd like to explore in the near future.
Other than the upcoming Small Wall Project, what else are you working on?
I'm currently working on a few group shows, which will be opening in the next few months around Melbourne. I also have some commission paintings on the go and a few mural projects which are in the works. I'm looking forward to these as it's a nice change from studio work.
I know you've done a fair number of pet commissions, would you ever consider taking on children’s portrait commissions?
Haha, never say never.
Thank you for your time, Robert! We can't wait to see your new paintings.