Artist Statement

(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

Making art, “painting a painting
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.

Sally Bowring