collage artist︎ Newcastle/UK
april 01, 2020
Could you please introduce yourself? Where did you grow up, and what were some of your first art experiences?
My name is Louis Bowes, I was born and grew up in a seaside town in North East England, just outside of Newcastle where I still live today. My early most memorable experiences of art would be listening to Bruce Springsteen CDs whilst on journeys in my parents’ car. I remember having a very visual response to the things he was singing about. Vivid lines such as “...I work down at the car wash where all it ever does is rain” really stuck with me. I was very young at the time and in my mind he was singing about the world around me, I had no reason to believe it wasn’t the car wash down the road from me. I guess it’s that childlike nature before our worlds become divided into different concepts and we attach labels, this country and that, those people and us. They were just words and melodies that painted the mundane around me into something interesting and beautiful. I had the artistic bug inside of me from very early on and it’s never gone away.
Do you work in any media other than collage?
I love photography too, at the moment I’m enjoying using a 35mm point and shoot film camera, I like the simplicity of it. Street photography is a big love of mine, with a strong focus on architecture and seeking out interesting people in and around nearby towns and cities. Images I make very often find their way into my collages too, it’s one of my primary source materials.
Your work is very pure and minimal. How would you describe your style and your collages in your own words?
Pure is a nice word I think, the process certainly feels that way to me. Mostly I’m just trying to make sense of the complex world around us. Most of us live in cities now which are like an overload of visual information, especially places in Europe such as the UK and France, where it’s not uncommon to see a brand new, modern apartment block across the road from a 1960s Brutalist building, right by a 1800s building. Collage allows me, in my own way, to make sense of how these all come together and how people interact with them. Scale, space, proportion, perspective & texture are all important repeating motifs in my work.
What attracts or doesn’t attract you to certain pictures or visual elements?
I love isolated figures within a scene. There’s a painter from Brighton in England called Anne Magill, her paintings are staggeringly good in my opinion. I like images which attempt to portray the depth of the human experience, and I particularly like it when artists try to find interesting ways to do so. Usually it’s the more ordinary things I’m drawn too, there’s a lot of collage artwork out there that has a very colourful, surrealist element to it - where they’re creating full scenes with a very obvious foreground, middle ground & background, they’re good too, but for me it’s simplicity that does it. Elements within space, rather than trying to be too detailed.
What are your sources for found images?
Mostly I use my own photography, the way I like to create collages is to not rely too heavily on a particular element, rather I prefer to use small fragments, a wall, a person walking, a window, a flower, a bird and begin to construct something new. I often use sites like Pexels & Unsplash or dig through public domain archives for hours to find the right pieces.
You work both analog and digitally. What are some of your favourite digital and non-digital collage methods?
I really like the textures you can find in analog materials. I have a library of scanned pieces of paper with interesting textures and imperfections, I tend to use these as the base surface on the digital art-board, and once I’ve created the collage I will use the textured surface again blended on top to bring a sense of cohesion to the elements as they’re oftentimes from different cameras/sources.
Are there any artists or personalities who particularly influenced you?
I really like the work of Peter De Potter, the Belgian artist, his images have a wonderful sense of being and emotion. My favourite artists however are the Soviet Avant-Gardists, El Lissitzky, Gustav Klutsis, and the likes. During the day I work as a graphic designer similar to Lissitzky, but in my mind I’m an architect that never was, and I get to fulfil that via my collages, without any worry that somebody might have to figure out how to build it! I think that was his approach to his work too, outside of the political implications.
What is your outlook on creation and creativity?
For me it’s always been “if somebody else likes it, then that’s a bonus”. I do it as a form of mindfulness in many ways, to get into that state of ’flow’. To step away from the busy days of emails, deadlines, meetings, this task and that - and just focus on one thing. It’s that artistic bug that won’t go away, I do it because something in me compels me to.
What originally drew you to collage?
I remember at about 17 years old I got really into this band WU LYF. Their artwork was often collages evoking a feeling of an uprising or a revolution, a new utopia, a dissent against modernity and capitalism. I think after I heard their music and seen their artwork, I was never the same person again. Design & art became something I knew I was going to do for the rest of my life.
How do you think your work is perceived?
It’s hard to say, I’ve had a lot of wonderful feedback over the years, yet I’m still always genuinely surprised to hear what people have to say. Often people are telling me things I didn’t realise myself about my work. I guess it’s due to my method of doing it because I’m compelled to, not necessarily to portray some sort of narrative or grand idea.
With your work being as minimal as it is, it is hard for me to picture the person behind it. Harder than for some other artists I spoke to. Does your personal life play a meaningful role in you work or its narratives, and if so, how?
I think it probably does play an unconscious role in the things I make. It’s probably inevitable to a degree. I never really start off trying to express anything personal, but I recognise my works often have isolated figures in them, usually small in scale relative to the other elements. I think it’s probably a feeling lots of people get, that underlying feeling of being a little bit lost, trying to find meaning in a world which can sometimes feel quite cold. Although my general outlook on the world is not a bleak one - I’m a long-term optimist I’d say!
Louis Bowes: ︎ ︎
interview: Petra Zehner