Highly accomplished in its deployment of various materials and techniques, Josh Bowe’s work, although primarily figurative, nonetheless represents an on-going investigation into the fundamentals of representation and abstraction.
At once complex and intuitive, his paintings combine form, colour and texture to create a strong sense of vigour and dynamism, the contrasting figurative and abstract pictorial elements stimulating the viewer to see familiar subjects in fresh and challenging ways. Moreover, by staying faithful to well-established aesthetic principles, Josh Bowe’s image-making pulls off that all too elusive balancing act between innovation and accessibility, endowing his work with exceptional intellectual and visual appeal.
Josh Bowe’s painting is all about the universal human experience, the distillation of the base elements that bind us together. His portaits can transform one man’s longing or one woman’s suffering into reflections of aspects at the core of the viewers’ own personality. Twelve months ago, Josh switched from acrylic to oil and the new medium has proved a revelation for him. The process he goes through to complete a painting is an investigation, a constant struggle to reconcile the opposing forces of representation and abstraction. The faces that inspire him the most are the faces that best portray the journeys we all take along the road of life; faces that capture both the decisions we make and the decisions forced upon us by circumstance. He is fascinated by the way the human physiognomy can mirror the variant strengths and relative proportions of the elements that combine within us all to forge our characters and personalities. The acceptance of defeat, the will to triumph, the courage to hope, the profondity of loneliness, the permanence of loss, the painstaking accretion of wisdom – these are some of the sentiments that Josh mines and extracts from the wrinkles on a homeless man’s brow or the radiance of an old woman’s eyes. The titles Josh gives his portraits are abstract nouns, not names. With a name comes a history, a biography, the series of associations and preconceptions that makes us all unique; by stripping away these labels, Josh extracts the essence of humanity from the individual. The identities of his subjects, their backstories – whether they live on the street or in a mansion – are subservient to the role he gives them as archetypes. Ultimately, Josh’s painting is about communication. It is his search for commonality. It is the depiction of the feelings and emotions that we all share. The things that make each of us special, unique and invidual are then conversely the things that make us part of the whole. When Josh paints men and women, he also wants to paint Mankind.