Collectors Love: Max Bowden

Collectors voted with their wallets at these sell-out shows.

Words: Louise Martin-Chew

Max Bowden might be the most successful artist that you’ve never heard about. It is all the more surprising when you consider that her art practice spans some 25 years.

Her name Max, unusual for a woman, is one she assumed as a teenager starting at a new school: “I think I was trying to find out how I could be stronger.” Clearly, with two sell out exhibitions at Melbourne’s James Makin Gallery (2022 and 2020), she has found her power.

Most recently, Bowden won the Hadley’s Art Prize Residency, 2022, and was a finalist in the Rick Amor Self Portrait Prize in 2020. She was the winner of the Whyalla Art Prize, 2002 and, in 1995, was awarded a scholarship to attend the Adelaide Central School of Art.

Bowden is frank about the issues that have hindered her. “Anxiety affected how I painted in the past, but now it just spotlights an area that I can process, or tweak, so to speak,” she says. “Early on, I had a show that didn’t go well and it really rocked me. I kept painting, but stopped showing.”

In recent years, she has found her way back using an urgent mode of practice. With a young family, she had less opportunity: “I would only have half an hour, so started painting anything I could see, and fell in love with the cat and mouse game of catching Darwin’s mind-blowing atmosphere. I found I was at my best as a painter tasting these moments and that I was really present; there was a little bit of extreme sport excitement.”

That urgency is conveyed in her gestural paintings, with tension inherent in titles such as The only surf day in Darwin, 2022 (the painting’s looming grey sky reflected in the wet road) and Mother’s Day, where the untidy detail of a tiny kitchen is pressed close to the picture plane.

Featured image above: Max Bowden, Salt Dog, 2022. Oil on Belgian linen, 30 x 40cm. Courtesy: the artist and James Makin Gallery, Melbourne. 

Featured image below: Max Bowden, Road with a tree, 2020. Oil on canvas, 40.5 x 30cm. Courtesy: the artist and James Makin Gallery, Melbourne. 

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 103, January-March 2023. 


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