Monday, 21 July 2014

[review] Liam Bowen: People

By Liam Bowen
Self Published Zine, 2014
For copies contact:
Reviewed by Maryann Savage

This zine collects Liam Bowen's sketches of people between 2010 – 2014.  Most of the sketches were done on public transport.   Liam's simple sketches use the minimum number of lines required to express the character and likeness of each person he draws.  Although there's not much written description in the zine, his personality creeps in.  Noting that some drawings were done on a trip to China, Liam says

            looking back at this time, I just acted like a big kid, and was totally irresponsible.


            in 2010, I found myself without any of my regular hobbies, with no-one talk to ...

Thus these mostly wordless pictures are informed by the melancholy fact that in his loneliness he's drawing  people, over and over and over again.

Looking at the images is like encountering Liam briefly on the bus yourself:  you get a tiny insight into the surface of his life, and are left wanting to know more.  This mirrors the way that his drawings of people express his own curiosity about them. These aren't dead representations:  they feature what Liam finds amusing or interesting – someone's big dark glasses, their stubble, their jowly chin. 

Liam reflects a few times in the zine on why he chose to draw people: 
            to get a feeling of 'this is what regular folks are like'
            it was probably a matter of, 'that girl's pretty, I'd like to stare at the back of her head for a          while.'

This zine may be mostly images, but Liam's thoughts between 2010 – 2014 are here, in the drawings:  his humorous and gentle and affectionate and yearning need for people.  I think there's a reason we draw people over and over again – because we like them, even just regular people, people on public transport.  Just being on public transport gives you something that the cold images you see on TV and in magazines glosses over  – you're there with the immigrant communities, the poor older people and the poor younger people, and there's a real warmth in that, a genuine homeliness.  Once you're used to travelling on the bus or train, when you switch to riding in a car, you can really miss that sense of being in touch with these living, smelling, mussed up human beings.  That sense of human connection without the need for words is well articulated in Liam's simple but beautiful drawings.  

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