Flowers Cork Street,
While Howson has exhibited far and wide previous exhibitions have always focused on a particular area of his life. This exhibition offered the opportunity to become a direct witness to a diverse range of varying incidents and torments he has endured and encapsulated. Howson sets out to draw onlookers into his world, which is rich and vibrant, exciting, action-packed yet sometimes terrifying. He is renowned for his penetrating insights into the human condition, and his heroic portrayals of the mighty and meek. The paintings here are not academic or didactic in the style of history painting, but the sublimation of revelatory personal narratives.
Intimate details of the artist’s familial and spiritual relationships punctuate the parables of his urban imagination. Throughout this survey show we can see a parade of Howson’s Noble Dosser’s, boxer’s and misfits, the heroes of his practice. The Blind Leading the Blind VI, a painting celebrating masculinity and power, also highlights the awkwardness of the warrior man in this contemporary world, “A creature as short on intelligence as he is over – endowed with gigantic distorted muscles. This man you feel, has lost more fights (and badly) than he has won. Yet some underlying heroic drive will take him into the ring again and again.” – Robert Heller, London 2008
Included in this exhibition is The First Step, 2000. Whilst working on this painting Howson was battling with various addictions and personal demons. The central figure lurches on carrying a rowdy band of figures on his back, amongst the individuals we see one so eager to control him that he physically spears the protagonist’s leg with a metal hook, clawing his thigh. Bruised and bare footed he still strides on in a field of bottles and debris, mirroring Howson’s own struggle and ultimate determination to continue as an artist.
The exhibition also includes new work by the artist in the pastels and oils. These are bold and uncompromising, ever highlighting Howson’s feelings that beauty is in the honest unmasked form. He chooses to highlight every line and shadow in the faces that stare out with fierce intensity from his works, as proud medals of life experience.
The theme of life’s struggles permeates the exhibition, as indeed it does Howson’s life, yet there’s a heroic strength in the works that lead one to admire not only him as a person, but his ability to capture this through a medium that arrests and inspires you.