Josh Bowe is a British artist whose painting is all about the universal human experience, the distillation of the base elements that bind us together. His portraits can transform one man’s longing or one woman’s suffering into reflections of aspects at the core of the viewers’ own personality. Josh studied illustration at Wrexham and Glasgow School of Art.
Twelve months ago, Josh switched from acrylic to oil and the new medium has proved a revelation for him. The process he goes through to complete a painting is an investigation, a constant struggle to reconcile the opposing forces of representation and abstraction.
The faces that inspire him the most are the faces that best portray the journeys we all take along the road of life; faces that capture both the decisions we make and the decisions forced upon us by circumstance. He is fascinated by the way the human physiognomy can mirror the variant strengths and relative proportions of the elements that combine within us all to forge our characters and personalities. The acceptance of defeat, the will to triumph, the courage to hope, the profundity of loneliness, the permanence of loss, the painstaking accretion of wisdom – these are some of the sentiments that Josh mines and extracts from the wrinkles on a homeless man’s brow or the radiance of an old woman’s eyes.
The titles Josh gives his portraits are abstract nouns, not names. With a name comes a history, a biography, the series of associations and preconceptions that makes us all unique; by stripping away these labels, Josh extracts the essence of humanity from the individual. The identities of his subjects, their backstories – whether they live on the street or in a mansion – are subservient to the role he gives them as archetypes.
Ultimately, Josh’s painting is about communication. It is his search for commonality. It is the depiction of the feelings and emotions that we all share. The things that make each of us special, unique and individual are the conversely the things that make us part of the whole.
Josh Bowe lives and works in Llansantffraid, Powys, United Kingdom.