Reading Images – Peter Howsen

Peter Howson was born in London in 1958 and spent much of his infancy in the bustling community of Isleworth. He arrived in Scotland at the age of 4 as a result of his father accepting a position of employment with Air Canada. The Howson family settled in Prestwick which was, at that time, nurturing a booming economy thanks in large part to the onset of commercial air travel.

Howson entered his first year at Glasgow School of Art in 1975, aged 17. In the best traditions of undiscovered genius, tutors at the Art School didn’t fully appreciate his strong, sometimes overbearing, figurative style. Howson failed his first end-of-year exams and although returning the following year, he became increasingly restless. On one notable occasion, after a life drawing model had failed to ‘show face’, Howson and his trusted friend, Donald MacLeod, went absent and in what was a remarkably short time, had managed to coax one another into signing up for the British Army.

Howson was growing repugnance for what he was doing and at one point he even tried to inflict harm on himself to prevent him from having to attend rifle practice. After such a gruelling experience, Howson swore never to fire another gun for as long as he lived. The almost grotesque form of overly-developed bodies was to become the focus of much of Howson’s most lauded work. Howson’s stated abhorrence of violent culture is reflected and often replicated in his later pieces and there seems to be an intrinsic link between the potent, and sometimes literal, violence of his paintings and their depiction of muscle-bound monsters.

Howson was a central figure in what was becoming known as the “Glasgow Boys” movement, a collection of like-minded and revolutionary painters which also included Ken Currie. Howson graduated in 1981 and had married in 1983, although this was fated to end within a year. With his work beginning to sell and gather increasing notice, Howson met his future representation, agents Angela and Matthew Flowers. They spotted his work at a 1985 exhibition, “New Image, Glasgow”, and were instantly taken aback by his obvious talent. Even in those early days a star-studded glitterati of Howson devotees and collectors were beginning to emerge, led by Madonna, David Bowie, and Bob Geldof.

the reason i Found howsen to be the most interesting choice for the  reading images lecture is because he is a painter of people and i adore his style. he Puts importants on portraying the themes of the ordinary over conventual composition and instead focuses on portraying what he sees using powerful and intense imagery. howsens imagery can be read in many ways but no matter how you choose to translate it you have a translation ether way.


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