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In Conversation - Audrey Bowling (Lives and works in Great Dunmow, UK)

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

Audrey Bowling is a mixed-media artist working with an emphasis on collage.

As an avid traveller, Audrey photographs landscapes and other phenomena to inform her work. The shapes and colours of these provide inspiration, alongside the materials and found objects she uses. Inspired particularly by the hills and mountains seen on her travels in Scotland and overseas, these views coalesce in her sea and landscapes.

She is also fascinated by found objects, especially those lying in the street - rusty washers, keys, bits of wire, etc discarded by society. She uses them in her work to give balance and texture, whilst giving them a life beyond their original purpose.

Just before we re-opened the gallery Audrey came into the gallery with some new artwork and we had a conversation and here it is …

Q: What do you love most about your artwork?

I love the act of creating something. I love the textures, memories and feelings it evokes.

Q: As an Artist what have you learned about yourself and your art?

I have learnt that I get the best results if I get out of my own way and just let it flow. As soon as I start trying too hard it doesn’t work as well.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

I love to travel and get much of my inspiration from the landscapes I see. I missed the hills greatly during lockdown. Nature is a big draw, from flowers and lichen to the shapes of rocks and the colour of heather on the hills. I spent a lot of time during lockdown drawing flowers in our garden, taking in the shapes of their petals and leaves and watching the sun throw shadows through the petals. I also hate to throw things away and like to recycle items in my artworks, whether that is packaging, old cans, rusty washers, bent wires, sometimes from things I have at home, others that I find when out walking. These found objects bring memories of the place and time they were found and give them a use beyond their original intent, hopefully in a way that draws the viewer into the artwork.

Q: Are there any little tips or tricks you’ve learned over lockdown that would help or inspire your work for the future?

I am using gallery wrapped canvas much more and have started using stencils to create my own papers for collage. I have made some small sketchpads, which are both more easily carried and have pre-prepared surfaces. I am trying to layer much more than I have previously, often things that the viewer may never see or will only glimpse, but will hopefully give my work a much freer look.

Q: Do you listen to music when you are painting and if so, what are you currently listening to?

I tend to like quiet when I’m painting, but sometimes I’ll listen to art-themed podcasts. My husband is very into music, so there are times when this will be playing in the background. Our music varies greatly from Rock, Blues and Jazz to Latin Pop. Izo Fitzroy, The Kings Parade, Supergrass, Kaiser Chiefs, Pasadena Roof Orchestra, Pablo Alborán and Salvador Sobral are current ones.

Q: What do you personally find the most challenging thing about your artwork?

Stopping. Stopping myself making just one more mark and ruining what I just had. Stopping myself trying to make the artwork be something specific when it clearly wants to do its own thing. Stopping myself buying supplies I don’t need but want because they look like they might be fun to try.

Q: What is the highlight of your career so far, or your proudest moment?

Nothing is ever going to beat selling that first artwork and realising that someone you don’t know thinks something you made makes them want to look at it enough to be worth buying. But since then, I was awarded a Top 20 place in Cambridge Open Art Exhibition in 2018 for one of my artworks out of over 500 artworks by 100 artists and of course becoming one of Wonky Wheel’s wonderful gallery of artists and makers.

Q: Who is your favourite artist or craftsperson, and why?

Gosh, so many. Anthony Green RA was the one whose art I saw whilst at school and realised that things didn’t have to be quite as you see them, I now have a couple of prints. Cornelia Parker uses light and shade wonderfully. Georgia O’Keefe, I only discovered her work after I posted a photo of one of my floral paintings and someone said it reminded them of her work. I look at her work now and see such subtle variations of tone to describe the abstract nature of the floral form. There are many contemporary artists that I have discovered through my short time in the art world and through social media, whose work should be better known – Fiona Matheson – the colours and feelings of the Scottish landscape that she manages to evoke, Fiona Groom – the humour reproduced in her animal artworks, especially those cheeky emus, Clare Rennie - a wonderful ethereal quality, Lorraine Brown- the layering gives you so much to look at and ponder and Amy Pettingill – the colour and vibrancy just makes you want to smile.

Q: What is your favourite piece in your collection that has just arrived at Wonky Wheel Gallery, and why?

Ben View has a calmness about it from which I can benefit and yet urges me to return to the hills that I have missed deeply during this lockdown.

Q: Can you write to your younger self and explain what it’s like to be an artist and what would you change or tell your younger self to do differently.

Being an artist is both freeing and hard work. You get to meet some incredible people and make some fantastic memories. You need to be present and actually make the art and you need to find that inspiration for the next piece. That means doing something every day even if you don’t feel like it and you don’t feel it is any good, as it will keep that muscle memory going. You need skills beyond making art such as business management, marketing, accounting, IT, social media, communication and interpersonal skills. If you don’t have these you either need to learn them or know enough to find someone who can do them for you.

My advice is to go with your heart, don’t force it and trust in the process. I’m not sure whether I would tell my younger self to go to Art College or not. Had I gone, it would have given me technical knowledge as well as a network of contacts and a different view of the working world, but I’m not sure whether that would have tied me to a particular set of ‘rules’ that I would have been expected to follow and whilst I very much resist being told what to do, I will tend to do what is considered ‘right’ until I realise I can do otherwise. While I may not have benefited from the network and some of the technical knowledge, I have been able to learn marketing, communication, customer service, training skills and some business management that have served me well.

I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Audrey and all Audrey's work is on display in the gallery at Finchingfield and on our website.

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