Lesley Bower ASGFA
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Living in west London most of my adult life, I have had a varied career. But in in the 1990s I retrained at Camberwell College of Arts as a conservator of art and archives on paper. Conserving a print, drawing or old map means being ruthlessly careful, methodical, forensic and scientific, the exact opposite of the other side of my work, which is creating art that is intuitive, imaginative and often messy in the making. A few years ago I stopped being a conservator, except for occasional work at the V&A Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green on the documentation and preservation of the museum’s vast Learning Collection. Besides conserving paper-based objects, I was a regular contributor to publications on the care of family archives, and helped run sessions at our local museum on the care of prints and drawings. I also ran workshops for artists on making pastels.
Alongside working at the museum, whose objects are endlessly interesting, I began exploring less well known streets and markets around the East End and other parts of London, as well as the crowded neighbourhoods and street markets of places further afield, such as Istanbul.
I use mixed black and white media to try to capture the texture and atmosphere and exuberance of such busy places. For these works on paper I use more or less whatever comes to hand — twigs and fingers, brushes, bamboo pens, watercolour, India ink, pastel, conté crayon, compressed charcoal, chalk, sometimes collage — all in one picture. The drawings are not preparatory drawings for paintings, but works in their own right. As a starting point I use a couple of rough photos taken as I walk through crowds, then I let the paper take on a life and look of its own.