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A conversation between Frank Bowling, Paul Harrison and Jeremy Thomas

Article relating to a publication, 1983
Published by: Artscribe
Year published: 1983
Number of pages: 4

image of A conversation between Frank Bowling, Paul Harrison and Jeremy Thomas

Substantial four page, transcript of a three-way conversation between Frank Bowling, Paul Harrison and Jeremy Thomas. Titled Formalism versus New Art, the feature was spread across four pages and was illustrated with three  monochromatic reproductions. It appeared in Artscribe No.44, published December 1983, pages 54 - 57.  Bowling introduced the conversation as follows:

“At a time when my work was slowly moving away from the kind of undisciplined expression my sojourn at the Royal College of Art afforded me, I began to seek out, and listen to, my more formally trained friends; these happened to be mainly architects and engineers. Then there was my friend Paul Harrison, who to me simply represented science; the image of science as a study of pattern and order. Presently a lecturer at Poole Tech, when we met, in Bristol in 1958, Paul Harrison was about to commence his graduate work involving research on colour, at the university there. But he was more often to be found in the Drama department and in the pubs round about, worrying on the natute of ‘context’. Our modest discussion group was actually formed some years later, in late spring and autumn, 1963. This consisted of myself, Harrison, the architect Jeremy Thomas and Jerry Pethick the Canadian sculptor who had studied at Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College at the same time as me. For autumn 1963 Finch’s pub in Fulham Road, where we used to meet, had turned into a mad house and Pethick, Thomas and myself decided that to do our talking we would travel down to Poole in Dorset where Harrison was living with his young family. This present talk was recorded in October 1983, also at Paul’s house in Dorset.

What would be the value of such a planned act as ours, taking place twenty years on? To me the value is inherent in our gathering together: then and now. It is coeval with the act of visiting and talking about art and culture and not something separate; not disconnected in the sense that by visiting each other we would derive value from our attempts by referring to some future goal, or end.

On looking for newness, new ways of proceeding to announce ourselves, we considered a dry subject: something opposite to the calm and composure of philosophy, like technique: not skill, but the making of an object and what lay behind its proficiency. How to make it really new but of tradition, the ‘how’.

The science of making seemed appropriate to us for a variety of reasons. Art and technique tend to meet when one or the other are at their best, or at their worst. At their worst when they produce mannerisms and encourage that witless, heavy impotence which seems to run through the scene presently, and at best when technique is used, from time to time, to temper and restrain.

Also there is something compelling about the way in which, in western art and culture, we proceed from means to end. When, really, the nature of context is content, intensity of interaction, a living zest - people meet, things happen. In art it’s mainly when you least expect it that it huts (sic) the button for you.”

Bowling opened the conversation with, “One of the things were were trying to get out of Paul when he was doing his research on colour, was some notion as to what the physical properties of colour could do in art. There was talk about the possibility of the perfect painting: a picture of a root 2 rectangle of a particular color - would this be the perfect painting?

As well as Paul’s colour ideas we were trying to get ideas from Jeremy about geometry and structure.”

Related people

»  Frank Bowling OBE, RA

Born, 1935 - 1937 (probably 1936) in British Guiana (now Guyana) Caribbean/S. America