There are several factors that make an exhibition of the work of these two artists particularly compelling but perhaps what Frank Bowling and Dennis de Caires most significantly share is a continued commitment to, and love of, the act of painting. Both are graduates of The Royal College of Art in London and have been painting since they left the college's Painting School; fifty and twenty-five years ago respectively.
Bowling and de Caires were born in Guyana (British Guiana as was), the former in Bartica (a small town at the confluence of the Cuyuni and Mazaruni Rivers with the Essequibo River) and the latter in Georgetown (the capital city that sits on the Demerara river). This simple fact has had a defining impact on their lives as artists and their long friendship has, I think, been based on their mutual understanding of the dilemma(s) of a move from The New World to The Old and the complex emotional, intellectual and cultural challenges that ensue.
It is not surprising then that they share a passion for the history of painting and that both are keen students of Western European art and its subsequent developments in the Twentieth Century American school. Perhaps more surprising, is their love of British painting (both adore the work of Gainsborough for example) and their view that it is the very exoticism of European colour that has informed their work in the past.
The Guyanese writer Wilson Harris is an important touchstone for both painters and a reading of, for example, The Palace Of The Peacock gives insight into the way in which Guyanese explore language itself to gain a stronger grasp of reality in order to better define their experience. It seems to me that this is here paralleled by these two painters who are equally fascinated by, and obsessed with, finding a visual equivalent.
I am not sure that either artist would want to make any great claim in respect of this but I feel that in this exhibition it is evident that those major issues - fundamental to painting - concerning colour, form and language that have occupied artists for centuries are engaged with here. And, furthermore, in ways that allow us to see new possibilities and potential through the act of painting.
It is twenty two years since Frank Bowling and Dennis de Caires showed together in an ambitious exhibition in 1989 at The Umana Yana Centre in Georgetown co-organised by The British Council and The Ministry of Sport and Culture in Guyana. This new exhibition in Wales affords us an opportunity to re-examine and celebrate their work again.