Siân Bowen

PSN Director, Reader in Fine Art

Siân Bowen’s research is located within the field of Fine Art practice. Within this area she has recently developed a number of projects that focus on drawing in relation to ambient light and actual space, as well as real time events with particular reference to a museum context. Bowen has also had a longstanding interest in Japanese culture and aesthetics – she has periodically carried out residencies, exhibitions and research visits to Japan having spent four years living in Kyoto (Monbusho Scholar, Kyoto University of Arts, 1985-87).

Sian Bowen was recently invited by Jilin College of the Arts to stage a solo exhibition – and travelled to Changchun, Jilin Province in North East China in June 2016. A large-scale installation of twenty-five back-lit drawings and eight video projections which referenced a failed attempt to reach China by sixteenth century cartographers, formed the show. To create this body of works, Bowen continued to the cartographers’ failed destination – the bamboo forests of East Asia. Filmed solely in the reflection of a Claude Glass (a black curved mirror), this not only fragmented the artist’s passage through sub-tropical landscapes but also sought to challenge experiential understanding of time and space. These were shown alongside a further series of video works which had been made through similarly employing reflections in the mirror – this time as the artist travelled through the ice pack of the arctic. Through multiple foldings, the drawings explored ideas connected to the transportation and storage of ephemeral objects. These were used to ‘wrap’ large light-tables and were made through repetitive burn marks.

Since 2012, Bowen has been developing two collaborative projects. The first is with Arkhangelsk Museum and the Russian Arctic National Park; drawing as a transformative process and the relationship between sites of discovery and preservation, are central to this investigation. In 2012, three hundred of Bowen’s drawings were buried on the site of the first arctic over-wintering refuge by Europeans, on the island of Nova Zembla in the Russian Arctic – and are currently being worked on/with to form a new body of works. The second project navigates through three distinct historical and contemporary ‘sites’ of knowledge – the extraordinary seventeenth century illustrated treatise on the plants of Malabar, Hortus Malabaricus; historical herbaria in Edinburgh, Liverpool and Oxford; and sacred groves in tropical forests and coastal plains of South India). It aims to stimulate new modes of drawing through considerations relating to the collection and preservation of rare plants.

From 2010-12, Bowen worked with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, as Guest Artist in Drawing. This project examined the relationship between materiality and the ephemeral. Prints that were discovered after having been frozen in the Arctic for three hundred years and which were conserved at the Rijksmuseum, were used as models for developing new modes of drawing. As Resident Artist in Drawing at the V&A, London, (2006-8) Bowen developed a body of site-specific works on paper which related drawing means to the Far Eastern and Word & Image Collections, the museum context and exhibition installation.