Siân Bowen, Guest Artist in Drawing, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 2010-11
“Siân Bowen’s drawings are manifestations of reflection which invite us to think about the ways in which museums prescribe our relation to art and how an artist can illuminate our experience and understanding.”
Gill Saunders, Senior Curator in Print, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Whilst Resident Artist in Drawing at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, (2006-8), British artist Siân Bowen learned of the Nova Zembla collection of prints at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Extraordinary for having lain frozen in the Arctic for three centuries, this collection will be used as a stimulus for a project hosted by the Rijksmuseum in which Bowen will investigate the relationship between the materiality of drawing and the ephemerality of museum objects on paper. An installation of her new works will be shown alongside her personal selection of the Nova Zembla prints at the Rijksmuseum in 2011.
The prints are the material evidence of a story of endurance, preservation and loss. They were carried as merchandise on Willem Barents’ 1596 attempted expedition to the Far East via the Northeast Passage. An over-wintering refuge known as “ the Saved House”, was built on Nova Zembla in which the prints lay in stacks until their discovery: the refuge had filled with ice, transforming the stacks into frozen papier-mâché blocks. In 1977 methods were devised at the Rijksmuseum to separate the layers and reassemble the thousands of fragments. The physicality of the prints thus underwent metamorphic change: from two-dimensional paper sheets to three-dimensional hardened, blackened blocks and back again to paper.
The project will expand Bowen’s ongoing interest in devising new ways of creating and exhibiting drawings to interrogate the museological dimensions of the state of flux. She will be developing dialogues with a range of experts who have a knowledge of the Nova Zembla collection, of Barents’ expedition and the archaeological site of the Saved House – curators of Dutch history, paper conservators, archaeologists, polar experts and geologists will all play their part.
The project is funded by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council).
Born in 1959, and currently based in rural Northumberland, UK, British artist Siân Bowen was awarded a Monbusho Scholarship to Kyoto University of Arts, Japan in 1985. Her interest in traditional methods and materials and how they can be applied in new ways to modes of contemporary drawing, stems from this period. Following three and a half years spent in Kyoto, she returned to the UK where she has contributed to the current debate on the resurgence of drawing as a primary medium in fine art practice. Over the last ten years she has created works in response to a number of museum collections, most recently at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum and Stonehenge World Heritage Site. From 2006-8, she was Resident Artist in Drawing at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Solo exhibitions of her work have been held throughout the UK and at a wide range of venues internationally including the British Council Gallery, Madras, India; North Gallery, Kyoto Art Centre, Japan and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Her work has been included in a number of exhibitions examining the definitions of drawing within contemporary fine art practice, and has been selected on several of occasions for the prestigious Jerwood Drawing Prize. Siân Bowen’s works have been acquired for major public collections including the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.