Publication: Ceramic Review
The Scottish Gallery
7 – 31 March 2012
BEFORE completing his studies at Camberwell School of Art in 1991, Dylan Bowen (b.1967) trained with his father, Clive Bowen, at his pottery at Shebbear, Devon which had been set up in 1971. Bowen senior has a well-established style and indeed exhibited at the Scottish Gallery in 2010. Like many others, Clive Bowen was influenced by the ideas of Bernard Leach, having been apprenticed to his son Michael. Thus, many aspects of the Leach philosophy were passed on to the younger Bowen.
It’s never easy for an offspring to follow a talented parent into the arts, irrespective of the strength of their own expression; the demands are great and principally are about establishing one’s own style and voice. But it is clear that Dylan is confident in his own style having exhibited with his father at the Contemporary Ceramics Centre, London, in October 2011.
Dylan Bowen, who has worked outside the UK, and in other trades, has a vibrant and exciting talent that he is more than willing to share with others. Participating in the Aberystwyth Ceramics festival in 2011 Dylan “…demonstrated the making of inverted platters and constructed upright forms on the wheel…. newer hand-built as well as carved work and slip-decorating using pouring, brushing and trailing techniques.” 
Although the influence of his father is evident there is much about Dylan Bowen’s work that makes it original, exciting and full of energy. His use of slip, or engobe, is akin to some of the liberal, free, energised techniques of the American Abstract Expressionists. It’s difficult not to think of Jackson Pollock when looking at the way Dylan Bowen applies his white slip – made from Devon ball clay – to his red earthenware forms. The energy of Asger Jorn, Antoni Tàpies and Picasso – all of whom experimented with the relationship between painting and ceramics – never seems far away from Dylan Bowen’s own work.
Bowen has all but abandoned the total functionality that his father pursues and this has allowed him a greater freedom, although this is still mostly within the constraints of the recognisable archetypal vessels such as the plate and vase.
The Scottish Gallery were astute enough to recognise these qualities in Bowen’s work and group it in a way more akin to the display of paintings. Thus a grouping of seven or eight small and medium plates (DSC 0415.JPG) builds a decorative, patterned abstract narrative which adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Works such as ‘Large Form’ (DSC 0421.JPG) and ‘Medium Carved Form’ (DSC 0441.JPG) all but abandon the idea of the functional vase and – as sculptural ceramics – hint at the anthropomorphic.
Bowen clearly has great promise and it will be interesting to follow the course of his work as it develops, matures and evolves.