Taking art to the streets

Nathan Bowen

Pic: Billie Monnier-Stokes

Lewisham born-and-bred street artist Nathan Bowen has been attacking abandoned walls with paint across the world since 2009.

“There’s a drive inside me, some people get angry and hurt each other but when I feel angry I just feel like attacking a wall, that’s how I see it, it’s therapy for me,” he says.

Since then Bowen has made a name for himself with his iconic characters and shameless self-promotion.

He said: “I see how Banksy and other street artists out there do it by remaining anonymous, but that’s just not for me. I am, and want to be, myself and first of all I am Nathan Bowen.”

Bowen, who grew up in Catford, began painting outdoors after graduating from Central St Martins in 2008. After having enough of the boundaries of his fine art background he “decided to go out of the college and paint outside”.

“I was sick of galleries who weren’t showing an interest in my artwork and I didn’t know how to promote it”, he remembers. However, the competitiveness of the art industry and its rigid standards haven’t prevented Bowen from creating a name for himself across the globe.

“I just started going out into the streets, around Shoreditch, which at the time was where all the street art was, so I made that sure all my art was around there.”

Bowen’s pieces are still visible in the area, but gradually over time his artwork has been cropping up in more exposed places.

“One day I just thought why not try central London, go around Soho and Oxford Street. There wasn’t much street art in those areas at the time and I was one of the first to start bringing art to those busy areas.” He says modestly, despite his impressive accomplishments.

However, as the years have gone on, Bowen has returned back to his roots with a number of pieces cropping up around Lewisham.

“A mate and I just did a new piece down the road from my house actually. It’s nice doing work in the local area, mostly because I don’t have to get a train but also because these areas don’t have any art. This is Lower Sydenham.

“If you had asked me a few years ago, I definitely wouldn’t have painted around here but I’ve been doing this for seven years now and I’ve realised it doesn’t matter where I paint. I just paint because I enjoy it and I want others to enjoy it too.”

Bowen’s signature characters are hard to miss and easily recognisable. He said, despite his popularity, it still doesn’t prevent his work from potential destruction. “Someone might paint or graffiti over my artwork but that doesn’t matter to me, because it’s all about the feeling at the time,” Bowen adds, offering a new dimension to his work.

His upcoming show ‘Grandma Did It’ has a portion of it’s proceeds being donated between various youth and dementia charities. “Whenever I do an art show, I always try to make sure that it can raise awareness and dementia is close to home for me.

“My grandma’s got dementia, she’s had it for a few years now. So ‘Grandma Did It’ kind of seemed applicable.”

New pieces at the exhibition shine a humorous light onto old age with one of Bowen’s latest characters, a petite demon grandma who seems to be always up to some hijinks.

“I was just doing it because it was fun, I never knew that street art would take me this far.”

The free exhibition runs from November 4 to 5 at 48 Poland Street, Soho.

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