„The subject of my first serious painting was „The taste of a salted potato chip“.
I was sixteen at the time.“
This was the year 1966 and Ken Dowsing coming from a strict catholic boys school found himself experiencing his first day at Ipswich School of Art. At that time and unbeknownst to him, the most vadically experimental art school in the country.
„I turned up wearing a suit and tie, I was carrying my brother´s brief-case wherin lay my cheese sandwich for lunch.“
Ken Dowsing was totally unprepared for and delighted by the tuition that would follow.
First term students were handed potato chips and asked to paint, without recourse to design their impression of the taste. Life drawing often involved drawing whilst running around around the model!
Ken Dowsing´s class tutor Colin Moss, whose work can be viewed in London´s Tate gallery, encouraged him to experiment with different materials and was largly responsible for developing Ken Dowsing´s graphic style: „ Forget the bloody charcoal and bring a ballpoint tomorrow...“
Difficulties at home forced Ken Dowsing to leave art school prematurely and answering an advert he found a position in the art department of the local newspaper group.
The work was pleasently dull but he quickly compensated for the routine by voluntarily designing and illustrating the fashion and feature sections of all three newspapers. His growing interest in the combination of word and picture resulted in his moving to London.
„I wanted to draw and I wanted to tell stories, you can do that with film, with animated film“.
Ken Dowsing´s love of combining literature with pictures culminated in 1983 with his award winning short film „ Sun and Fun“ based on the poem by John Betjamen. „Sun and Fun“ was followed by „The Poetry Project“. Here Ken Dowsing invited artists, with no previous experience of animation, to choose a poem and a minimum visual interpretation as inspiration for a short film wich Ken Dowsing would subsequently produce. „ It was chaos, I had art students turning up from all over europe waving two sketches and expecting me to buy the rights to their films!“
Chaos or not, the Poetry Project did result in a number of lyrical short productions combining poetry with music and animation.
The best among these being the expressionistic and infinitely sad „Panther“ from Rilke, or the equally disturbing and deceptively simple „Terzinen“by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
That was 1995 and many years later in 2008 Ken Dowsing´s attention was drawn to the seeming unpopularity of reading amongst young people. His concern resulted in a series of self financed animated commercials aimed at reviving interest in books.
Parallel to animated film Ken Dowsing is best known for his “Still life studies”. Drawings of almost trivial objects are further reduced to make us see the familiar with fresh eyes. Despite the ephemeral character of soft pastel these are images of considerable dignity and power-
“The darling joys of sweet button hooking”
Drawings to James Joyce “Ulysses”. Ken Dowsing´s current and most ambitious project to date started in year 2002 and has grown since then to a full-time occupation.
“It was never my intention to illustrate the text, meaning to support the text and clarify it, but rather to let myself be inspired by the details that suggested pictures.”
It was Fritz Senn who commented: “I propose to look at Joyce from a particular point of view and examine what we can get out of it. Than to elevate our findings to a superior truth”.
A remark wich exactly confirmed Ken Dowsing´s approach.
Although Ken Dowsing claims he never intended to illustrate, his neticulously detailed drawings are often a revelation to the reader confused by Joyce´s text, and offer an invaluable side long glance into one of the greatesd and most mysterious novels of the 20th Century.
Intricately rendered in oil crayon Ken Dowsing´s narrative studies are some of the most dramatic and invigorating visual works on Joyce ever.
Text by Ken Dowsing