‘Queen of Color’: Meet Nat Bowen, model-turned-artist collaborating with McLaren

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UK-born model-turned-artist Nat Bowen became the newest artist in residence at ME Dubai, a hotel project designed by renowned architect Dame Zaha Hadid, with her latest collaboration with McLaren unveiled in February.

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In an interview with Al Arabiya English, Bowen – also known as the ‘Queen of Color’ – said that the beginning of her relationship with luxury supercar brand McLaren started in 2019 when the brand’s design director Robert Melville reached out to her in London. He invited her to visit the McLaren Technology Center, the headquarters of the Group in the UK.

“It was fascinating to see behind the scenes and learn more about the production and their bespoke division, McLaren Special Operations,” said Bowen.

Nat Bowen x McLaren Artura Aura

McLaren revealed the McLaren Artura Art Car created as a regional collaboration withBowen, who is known for her vibrant, colorful pieces. The unique supercar featuring the artist signature artwork was launched on February 24 and will be on display at the ME Dubai until March 31.

The McLaren Art car on display at ME Dubai hotel. (Supplied)
The McLaren Art car on display at ME Dubai hotel. (Supplied)

“Since moving to Dubai I connected with Mohamed Fawzi, the Market Director of McLaren Middle East, and the Regional Marketing and PR Manager Adam Gron. I had my ‘Queen of Color’ exhibition at ME Dubai in the pipeline and after some creative discussions on how we could collaborate, we decided the show would be the perfect opportunity to do something special together,” Bowen said.“I was invited to create a Nat Bowen x McLaren art car using a McLaren Artura, a hybrid supercar taking its name from the words ‘Art’ and ‘Future’, as my canvas.”

On display is the ‘Artura Aura’ artwork, the large-scale original resin painting that inspired the artwork design for the Mclaren car, as well as the ‘Chromalith,’ a tall, freestanding resin sculpture “that towers over the viewer and dominates the space,” she explained.

“[The Chromalith] is the largest artwork I’ve created to date, and it takes its name from the Greek word ‘chroma’ meaning color and the concept of a monolith. There is also the Nat Bowen concept store where you will find a wall of my trademarked Fragments® artworks and hand painted fashion items including a one-of-a-kind Louis Vuitton handbag.”

Leading British abstract artist Nat Bowen. (Supplied)
Leading British abstract artist Nat Bowen. (Supplied)

Bowen was first given the title ‘Queen of Color’ by one of her collectors, F1 legend Eddie Jordan, “and the title caught on,” she said. “Coincidently, the late Dame Zaha Hadid who designed The Atrium of the ME Dubai where I’m exhibiting my work was famously known as the ‘Queen of the Curve’ so for this show, the color and curve queens collide.”

Designer to model to abstract artist

Born in Solihull, UK, Bowen comes from a family of creatives which sparked her interest in art.

She was introduced to various design processes, materials and mediums from a very young age.

“As a child, I was given the freedom to express myself creatively and I was always getting messy making things, painting, drawing or sewing,” she said, adding that her parents played an instrumental role in nurturing her creativity from such a young age which led her to pursue a creative path as an adult.

She studied at the London College of Fashion where she believes her understanding of and appreciation for color and texture came about.

Nat Bowen- DUSK at 45 Park Lane. (Supplied)
Nat Bowen- DUSK at 45 Park Lane. (Supplied)

“[During my university days,] I would experiment with cloth and drape different fabrics on a mannequin,” she said. “After graduating, I worked as a fashion designer and then as a model where I learned a lot from working with different creative teams in the fashion world.”

Bowen then worked for a leading property developer in London where she made many connections in the market for luxury property. After quitting her job to go back on the creative path that she felt drawn to since her younger years, she was able to land commissions from the contacts she had made in the property market.

“The connections I had made in the property business led to me landing my first art commission for a new London development which gave me enough capital to set up a professional artist studio and everything snowballed from there,” she told Al Arabiya English.

She said that the need to create and express herself were essential to her wellbeing.

“I use my art as a way to communicate my inner feelings nonverbally to the outside world which I find therapeutic so the motivation [to create] comes easily,” she said when asked about what motivates her to create artwork.

Nat Bowen- Fragments. (Supplied)
Nat Bowen- Fragments. (Supplied)

“The act of creation is where I feel the most fulfilled, so it’s become a necessary part of my life to feel good within myself.”

Chromology and the psychology of color

The abstract artist said that art helps communicate her emotions and express herself.

“The hope is that by sharing my emotions via my art, the work in turn evokes emotions and creates an energy shift in the viewer. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to create a business out of something that gives me so much joy and satisfaction,” Bowen told Al Arabiya English.

Her work was based around Chromology, the psychology of color and the way the brain processes color and “the emotional impact this has on the body and mind,” she said.

“I use color and form as a way to communicate my emotions although the physical and emotional response of the viewer to my work may vary depending on their own perceptions and personal experiences.”

Nat Bowen. (Supplied)
Nat Bowen. (Supplied)

According to the artist, “Color has the power to alter one’s state of mind and can be used to create energy shifts from within. We are all aware of the positive effects sunlight has on our wellbeing and color can have an impact in a similar way. As a beautiful piece of music can change the emotional state of a person, so can color.”.

Bowen is also renowned for her use of multi-layered resin in her paintings. Resin is a painting style that does not usually involve using brushes or paint. It is a new-age creative concept that uses unique materials to enhance colors and generally has a clean, glossy finish.

“Up until this point I have only ever painted with epoxy resin. It’s a challenging medium to work with. My studio conditions are highly controlled in order for the resin to cure correctly and it’s taken a lot of practice to master painting with it, but I am now at a point where I respect the medium and its capabilities and working with resin has become second nature [to me.]”

When asked about the importance of art to society, Bowen said: “I see art as a language and a form of communication. Art is a way for creatives to share their voice. The only way for a society to evolve is by provoking thought and implementing change and I believe art has the power to open one’s mind and change perspective. A world without art would be like hitting a mute button on an important part of society. It is essential that there is space for all voices to be heard.”

Artistic influences

“My work is about color and color is all around so I can draw inspiration from anywhere,” she said when asked about her biggest artistic influences. “Travel has played a big part in this, and I find it fascinating how colors are used in different cultures and how colors come across in different lights depending on where you are in the world.”

Bowen said that her approach to art has been in part influenced by the Color Field Movement, a post-World War II art movement, that gained global prominence in the 1950s and 60s with artists such as Mark Rothko and Ellsworth Kelly.

Rothko and Kelly are abstract painters that are renowned for their abstract expressionism, an art movement that prided itself on its spontaneity and gestural brush strokes. Painting on large canvases and displayed for what they were, portraying a more serene and complex set of emotions in each painting by establishing a mood through particular shapes and colors.

Nat Bowen- UNDIVIDED FRAGMENTS. (Supplied)
Nat Bowen- UNDIVIDED FRAGMENTS. (Supplied)

Bowen said she is also fond of Bridget Riley’s artwork, an English painter known for her op art paintings. Op art is a form of abstract art that constitutes of the precise use of pattern and color to create optical illusions.

“I have a huge appreciation for Bridget Riley’s optical art and how she plays with color and geometric form to create movement in her paintings. Riley has proven longevity in the art world as a female artist with a career spanning over 70 years and is still exhibiting her work today at the age of ninety. It’s aspirational.”

When questioned about what advice she would give to young aspiring artists in the Middle East, she said: “Look to new and innovative ways to show art that make it more immersive and accessible to people. Dubai is all about the future and innovation so here ideas are embraced making it an exciting place to be at the moment, especially as an artist.”

“The attitude in Dubai that anything is possible allows creatives to stretch their imaginations to the extreme.”

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