Interview – Robert Bowman
Hello, could you tell us a bit about your practice?
Hi, sure I can, thank you for this opportunity. I work predominantly with the photographic. However, I often use the captured moments as a license to expand the still image into moving image, light and sound installations. I usually find it challenging to define my practice but by using these mediums, I reflect on the socio-political spaces that we encounter in our everyday. The invisible boundaries that separate us, non- places that optimise movement through the urban terrain, spaces that we are supposed to navigate with a purpose but not reflect on and the ever evolving mechanisms that are used by city planners to dictate our movements.
What are you exploring at the moment?
Throughout my two years studying on the BxNU MFA at Northumbria University I have been exploring these non-spaces. Using as a source to develop a series of works in different mediums. After exploring different output mechanisms I decided to assess what the photographic truly means to my practice. After realigning how the photograph operates in my practice, I’m now questioning the material nature of the photographic print. How the photographic object operates in the contemporary capture culture encountered more often through social media. By stretching the medium to the optimum tension, elevating the status of the image, pushing at the photographic indexes and leaving clues for the audiences to identify the object as a print through encounter.
Along the enquiry of capture culture I have used the indexes of the photographic to call into question what is worthy of a photograph, albeit critical of the medium, the capture culture has inundated the everyday with imagery. Leading into conversation what is worthy of capture and what is the optimum mechanism for installation.
Installation View. (light boxes & audio playback)
Baltic39 Studios, Highbridge, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Installation View. (camcorder, tube light, monitor)
Slowing Into Form, Interim BxNU MFA Group Show.
Vane Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne
Have you found there’s anything in particular that has influenced you over the years? What
I find inspiration from a multitude of sources but I would say that I’m heavily influenced by dystopian fiction and cinema. A fascination with possible/ lost futures are a major driver, when combined with human history, the ‘what if’ and socio-political psychologies, these offer a source for my own imagination and processes involving reality, control and space. Science, physics in particular, technology and cosmology are fields I have a deep interest in. I remember being in school and causing conflict between my Science and Art teachers. I had a drive to combine both disciplines, the knowledge and methodology of scientific experimentation transcends the creative process.
I’m also a hoarder of found imagery. I collect images from car-boot sales, found albums, postcards from charity shops. Not too long ago, I found an old box of slides I purchased from eBay about 5 years ago. I’ve not really thought about what I get from these images but I become captivated by the unknown histories of the people in the images.
Where do you work? Could you show us a picture of your working environment?
This is my desk in the MFA studios at Baltic39.
What’s on your bookshelf/what are you listening to or reading at the moment?
I’ve only recently started reading, The History of Bees, by Maja Lunde. The story follows three different narratives set in three different times and locations. It’s interesting as it has much to say about the relationship between parents and children as it does about the powerful relationship of nature and humanity.
My personal library is filled with books centred around art, science, photography and classics. I usually listen to classical piano and cinematic scores. The majority of the music I listen to has no lyrics, much like my images, void of a human voice, composed to create/ add atmospheric tension.
Quiet and melodic artists like Ludovico Einaudi, Max Richter, Yann Tierson and Johann Johannsson are perfect for keeping calm and centred when things get a bit hectic.
Could you give us between ten and twenty words that define your practice?
Photographic, Object, Construction, Tension, Time, Fluorescent, Installation, Memory, Encounter, Non-/ Place, Nocturnal, Reality, Flux, Reflective, Surface, Considered, Environment.
An Absent Presence. Collaborative exhibition with Alexander Nicholas.
Breeze Creatives, Newcastle upon Tyne
Where can people see your work?
Currently I’m working with my peers curating a group exhibition for our BxNU graduate exhibition:
You Kept Me Vaguely Sane.
9th- 27th May 2018, open Wed- Sun 12:00- 17:30,
Level 4, Baltic39, Highbridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1EW.
The private view is 17th May 18:00- 20:00. All are welcome.
Also, my website www.robbowmanphoto.co.uk
I use this I use this instagram account to collate ideas about art, photography, my life as well as
quite a few pictures of my cats and dog. Check it out they are pretty cute.
Alongside my personal instagram account I’m currently running a page dedicated to the night
captures of the non-places I encounter.
Test Print, 2018.
Digital image. (16” x12” C-Type Print, Dibond Mount)
Our last featured artist, Ben Jeans Houghton asked “Are you a person who has dreams? Are you
dreams that have a person? And or Neither?”. Could you answer that question and give us a
question to ask our next featured artist?
I am a person who has dreams. Dreams are an interesting aspect of the human psyche. When I dream I always try to recollect who was in the dream, my memory amalgamates the faces and names of people I know into fictions characters in the dream. The lucid dreams I’m referring too are few and far between the older I get. This warped reality in the subconscious of the human brain is always interesting and baffling.
My question for the next featured artist is: What was the most important decision you made in your artist career?
Images from @Nocturnal_walk series. 2018.
All images: Robert Bowman