David Bowers, contemporary pop artist Australia
Contemporary pop artist and painter David Bowers was born in Geelong in 1964. He grew up in Melbourne’s outer west – a blend of rural land, working class suburb and industrial wasteland. He studied illustration and life drawing at Monash University in Caulfield, graduating with a diploma in Graphic Design in 1986. From this point on, Bowers slowly but steadily steered away from design as a career, experiencing the world as a builder’s labourer, cray boat deckhand and petrol station hand among other things. All these jobs influenced his style and subject matter as a fine artist.
I always felt like a fake as a graphic designer because I could never put a brochure together, and basically all the work I’ve ever done has been by hand with a paintbrush or pencils.
In 1992 he created art / surf label Umgawa with creative partner Nick Morris. His bold, colourful style quickly caught the eye of Mambo head, Dare Jennings, and after selling Umgawa, Bowers became a Mambo regular, thriving in the Mambo environment of wild colour and irreverence.
Bowers works with acrylics, enamels and oil sticks. He also uses objects, signage, collage and cardboard boxes salvaged from Asian supermarkets, with their striking commercial symbols and bold exotic scripts. Another source of inspiration and materials is street combing – picking through the detritus left by the passing, multicultural human tides of Melbourne.
Bowers art work ranges freely across media and themes, skipping playfully from rural behemoths – majestic bulls, tractors and semi-trailers – to Melbourne streetscapes in close-up, to pop icons and the unexpected poetry of spam. Bowers refuses to be defined by a single style: his gleaning of materials, words and colours from his immediate world leads him down many stylistic paths. When the resulting works meet on his studio walls, they talk to each other in surprising ways.
He was a finalist in the 2010 Moran portraiture prize for his collaborative portrait with Nick Morris of elusive Victorian artist Doug Bartlett, and has featured in art exhibitions in Europe, Asia and the USA.
Aesthetically I find inspiration comes from anywhere any time. I am mesmerized by what I call incidental urban micro landscapes, like the patterns of road repairs, or chewing gum on the footpath; symbols, numbers and letters on power poles; the accidental tracks and patterns we leave as a species. I find the process of decay quite beautiful—rust, peeling paint etc. I’m drawn to the fine line between beauty and ugliness: the unintentional poetry of everyday life.
His award-winning pop art paintings have been showcased around the world and featured in well-known publications including King Brown Magazine (issue one), Desktop magazine (issue 223) and We Are The Image Makers online magazine (www.watim.com/issue12/).
He collaborates regularly with long-time friend and colleague, Torquay-based pop artist Nick Morris, under the joint pseudonym Doug Bartlett:
I get a huge kick out of sharing canvases because of the chaotic momentum. Working alone you can sometimes labour over a detail for hours, but with a shared canvas, someone else (Doug) will just boldly paint right over it and I’ll think what a bloody relief.