7 - 24 August 2013

Opening Night | Thursday 8 August 6-8pm

Katy Bowman

Trace/s is an exploration of the transitory evidence of activities and actions within the city; an abstract map of actions composed from found forms gleaned from the city’s streets. Drawing attention to the overlooked and discarded Trace/s literally traces the remains of things left behind; spills, splashes, repair seams, surveyor’s marks, cracks etc. becoming an abstract record of the transient and varied activity within the inner city precinct.

IMAGES | Katy Bowman, Soft Glyphs, 2013, Glyphs, 2013 reflectie adhesive vinyle on MDF, 70 x 60 x10cm, Enclosure, 2010, organza steel, h220 x dia 800cm| Images courtesy of the artist. 




  • mark, object, or other indication of the existence or passing of something:
  • very small quantity, especially one too small to be accurately measured:
  • a barely discernible indication of something:
  • a procedure to investigate the source of something, such as the place from which a telephone call was made:

verb [with object]

  • find or discover by investigation
  • find or describe the origin or development of:
  • follow or mark the course or position of (something) with one’s eye, mind, or finger
  • copy (a drawing, map, or design) by drawing over its lines on a superimposed piece of transparent paper:
  • draw (a pattern or line), especially with one’s finger or toe:

One of the things that artists do is to draw attention to those things which are often not seen or noticed by the general community, from the simple beauty of the everyday to oppression and subjugation of sections of society. The work in this exhibition evolves from Katy Bowman’s interest in and attraction to objects and marks that might be considered quite mundane, found in the everyday urban environment. The forms that you see in the gallery had their genesis in such simple things as linear tar seams, often dribbled, like crazy scribbles on the surface of the road; surveyor’s marks, cracks, flattened rubbish and debris, most commonly short lengths of knotted string or rope, once serving a useful purpose, but subsequently cast off and left in the street, trampled, swept or washed away. Why do such marks and urban detritus have a strong appeal for Bowman? What particularly interests her is that these forms that proliferate on the streets of any city are transitory evidence, the traces of past activities, occurrences and actions that are generally ‘invisible’ to the people who pass or walk over them every day. Their attraction for Bowman is not only their inherent organic beauty (when one is able to see it), but more significantly, their dynamic, mutable nature. Her interest in the objects and traces lies not with their actual history, but rather in their abstract and random nature, their openness to possibilities. She sees them as caught in a process of transformation, moving from the useful to the discarded and washed away – and then she continues the process.

In recent bodies of work Bowman has sourced everyday materials and objects from op-shops. From transparent tableware – to which she was attracted for its jewel-like colours - she fashioned fantastical sculptures based upon floral forms, referencing the ‘garden to plate’ philosophy as a means toward sustainable living1. The back covers of old books became her palette for a series of assemblage works, with strong links to modernist grid-based abstraction. The softly muted, yet rich colours of the works also linked them to patchwork and quilting2. Such works evolved out of Bowman’s recognition of the potential beauty of these ordinary objects. In Trace/s, Bowman has moved from using actual found objects to working with found forms, translating this vocabulary of signs and marks into sculptural and two-dimensional work in various media, colour and scale.

On first encounter with the work, one might interpret the forms as organic in nature - deriving from plant forms perhaps - or in the case of the large circular large wall piece which makes reference to the petri dish, that which may be seen under the microscope, cast large. In this openness of the forms to endless possibilities Bowman sees a certain poetry. The two-dimensional glyph-like forms of roadwork tar seams are here cast in shiny vinyl or domestic furnishing material as hanging kelp-like soft sculpture. On a smaller scale, multiple tar seam forms are cut from delicately coloured transparent material and layered between Perspex sheets to suggest a pastel tinted kaleidoscope or, with a shift in scale, layered scientific specimens on glass slides, ready for the microscope. These references to science are not inappropriate as this body of work is investigative and Bowman’s approach might be related to D.W. Winnicott’s ideas on method; ‘For the scientist the formulation of questions is almost the whole thing. The answers, when found, only lead on to other questions’3.

Other forms based upon random knots of string or rope are enlarged and cut from a range of semi-industrial materials. Those in coloured self-adhesive vinyl have parallels to Matisse’s cut paper works, while others in reflective vinyl on MDF seem to hover off the wall, their coloured undersides casting colour as a soft reflective doubling/blurring. Bowman’s choice of materials is significant. Self-adhesive vinyl and MDF are the basic materials of much signage and her intent (like commercial signage) is to draw our attention to these usually overlooked media.

Central to Bowman’s practice is an exploration of ideas of temporality and transition. The forms seen in this exhibition have a history of transition. They relate to things that had some functional purpose and were perhaps then discarded, losing their meaning, becoming rubbish, swept or washed away, overlooked and walked over, but then recognized and collected by the artist, worked with through a process of exploration, given new material form and scale and now experienced by an audience and open to multiple interpretations. Echoing and acknowledging the ephemerality of her sources, some of the works are themselves ephemera, existing only for the life of the exhibition, to be later peeled from the wall and discarded.

- Penny Peckham, 2013

1. Kitchen Garden 2011
2. Second Edition 2012
3. D.W. Winnicott (1896–1971), U.S. psychoanalyst. "Psychoanalysis and Science: Friends or Relations?" Home is Where We Start From: Essays by a Psychoanalyst, Norton (1961) pp.13-18. Winnicott discusses scientific enquiry as opposed to religious faith.


Katy Bowman would like to acknowledge the kind assistance of the Contemporary Sculptors Association at the Yarra Sculpture Gallery.