1.It's about surprising myself
2.It's about experimentation and invention
3.it's about who I am ... being part of the whole
4. It's about the love and celebration of color and light
5.It's about Stillness and Quiet
6. It's about making lists
7. It's about art history and understanding and considering my place in it.
8. It's about not knowing in the beginning and discovering during the process
9. It's about meditation and prayer
10. It's about taking chances and changing
11. It's about finding poetry in shape
12. It's about a private joke and/ or a private moment
13. It's about generosity, lushness and visual pleasure
14. It's about beauty
15. It's about doubt and anxiety
16. It's about growing older and children growing up and friends dying
17. Its about humor and laughing alone in your studio
18. It's about my garden - growth cycles, changing forms and mutations
19. It's about the things I read, hear on NPR or the nightly news
20. It's about listening to music
21. It's about my love for textiles, Matisse, Joan Mitchell's paintings, Rauschenberg's invocations, Brice Marden's elegance, Agnes Martin's brevity and Louis Armstrong's En Vie en Rose, my love for cities - NYC and Paris
22. It's about immediacy and alchemy
23. It's about shape- the abstracted- the insinuation of a shape
24. It's about surface - it's complex nature - its' emotional possibilities
25. It's about all of these and none of these directly
Sally Bowring 2007, revised 2010, revised 2023
Artist Statement 2022
Built on a life-time studio practice, my current paintings culminate lifelong investigations in abstraction that include the structure of gardens, the complexity of pattern and the brilliance of color. Each work is a painting within a painting (a visual puzzle impossible to put together) that asks the viewer to slow down and look carefully. This sustained view provides a wealth of visual enrichment. Crafted formally, intuitively ,and at times with contradiction and absurdity, my works incorporate geometric and natural forms. At this point, the organic markings lie under a pile of imperfect geometric shapes. I contrast chaotic color areas with neutral “landings”, so the visual rhythm is fast with a chance to catch your breath.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend about my most recent work and the presence and continual use of shadows and scaffolding. I decided these elements are part of my NYC DNA – growing up in a massive grid with shadows of the IRT in late afternoon has been imprinted in my sense of being and now very visible in my paintings. My paintings always retain a sense of place and locality; something loved, and something lived.
(artist statement 2020)
Built on a 50-year studio practice, my current paintings culminate lifelong investigations in abstraction that include the structure of gardens, the complexity of pattern and the brilliance of color. Each work is a painting within a painting (a visual puzzle impossible to put together) that asks the viewer to slow down and look carefully. So encouraged, this sustained view provides a wealth of visual enrichment. Crafted formally and intuitively, my works incorporate geometric and natural forms. At this point, the organic markings lie under a pile of imperfect geometric shapes. I contrast chaotic color areas with neutral “landings”, so the visual rhythm is fast with a chance to catch your breath. A good example of this is the painting “Mind over Matter”. My paintings always retain a sense of place and locality; something loved, and something lived.
(artist statement 2018)
Over the past 40 years of making art I found my work comes from daily observations, essays and novels I have read, art theory, feminist theory, memoirs, sensations, thoughts, experiences, friend’s opinions, fears, jokes, love, and life lived.
Things that inspire me are:
order and disorder, my garden, puddles, shadows, things that repeat themselves (not people), tools and utensils neatly lined up, polka dots, patterns, textiles, the weather, architecture, grids, geometric things juxtaposed with the organic, the light of the changing seasons and the idea of paradise.
When I finish a painting I want to be surprised, then sweetly sigh.
My work arrives through a series of processes that mimic some of the behavior of domesticity from cleaning the kitchen counters to gardening, through planning, arranging and spraying (and in some cases, masking, stenciling, digging back or exposing). Layers of a combination of metallic enamels and acrylic paint create the paintings with various acrylic solvents – sprayed – from low-tech plastic spray bottles. The resulting abstract paintings reference a concern for order, selection and beauty, and read metaphorically, the work alludes to cycles, unpredictability, things seen and hidden and the repetition of life.
This work is inspired, in part, by the medieval gardens of my childhood. I grew up in Manhattan, near the Cloisters--which loomed large, physically and metaphorically, in my early life. As a child I played hide go seek in this magical setting. I still make an annual trip to see the magnificent square gardens that are imprinted in my psyche.
In a contemporary context “ House and Garden” references community gardens, slow eating, seasonalism, localism and a sense of individual control over your eating, well -being and social politics; it parallels the pace of painting. And with the recent tragic events of home foreclosures the “House and Garden” series magnifies the personal significance of home.
Egyptian gardens, another inspiration for these paintings, provide two areas for me to explore: structural geometry and the concept of Paradise. I intentionally use a square format to maintain the abstractness of my paintings – the geometry of these ancient gardens reiterate the painting’s structure and allow me to work with and against it – exploring the possible dualities of geometric and organic. Ideas of gardens as paradise allow me justify the veiled colors and lush surfaces of my paintings, creating (if you will) a portable, painted heaven on earth.
2012 statement about "The House and Garden" paintings
The Art, the history, the tradition, is too much there….
I don’t want to know the answer before but want an answer that can surprise.
- Eva Hesse, diary entry, December 14, 1964
The early sprout in the spring garden promises and implies the full life cycle.
Being partly done, unfinished, not fully developed embodies an optimistic promise for things continuing, things in the middle of something - more to come.
Combining intuitive decisions with a formal structure built with veils of color created from marks and stenciled forms – the paintings reference garden arrangement, natural patterns and textiles. The use of color in my paintings plays a range from atmospheric to saturation.
I think most of daily life appears conclusive and routine-making it difficult to fully stay engaged.
My paintings leave shapes undone and fragmented – something left out- something to be filled in. The work gives clues and leaves evidence-providing some kind of visual implication; an insinuation of continuance.