Frank Bowling’s ‘Arrival’ Bridges Two Coronations
Displayed on the giant screen at Piccadilly Circus, the video commemorates the artist's arrival in England right before Elizabeth II was crowned.
Frank Bowling, Arrival (2023). Video. Courtesy the artist and CIRCA.
The work marks the 70th Anniversary of Bowling's arrival in London from Guyana—then British Guiana—in May 1953, shortly before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June.
'The moment I arrived in London, I knew I was home', said Bowling in a statement.
'My uncle met me at Waterloo, and we travelled by Tube to Finchley Road,' he said, describing his first day in the city as a 19 year old.
'I wasn't even listening to what he was saying, I was looking round. It was summertime, and the whole of London town was still into the coronation,' he continued.
'And I went all over London—even up past Piccadilly Circus—travelling on the buses, on the train. It was amazing.'
Less than a decade later, Bowling graduated from the Royal College of Art with the silver medal for painting. He later left for the U.S., where he developed his colourful abstract style.
Later Bowling returned to the U.K. as a Royal Academician. He received a knighthood from the late Queen in 2022.
'The subject of my art is paint—the way that colour washes, spreads, bleeds, and the way that paint-colour emits light,' Bowling said.
Arrival crossfades two of his seminal 'Map Paintings': Texas Louise (1971) and Australia to Africa (1969–70).
'It's a whole world thing—70 years in the making,' the artist said of Arrival.
Alongside the King's coronation, the launch of the video coincides with the 75th Anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush on 22 June 1948. The ship, a German vessel confiscated by the British Government as a prize of war, brought Caribbean immigrants to help rebuild post-war Britain.
As part of the Piccadilly exhibition, CIRCA and Black Cultural Archives will be collecting public submissions of memories and photos from the Windrush generation to tell their story through film on 22 June. —[O]