Siân Bowen (born 1959) is an artist who has made drawing her primary practice. Her work extends the definition of the term drawing and involves techniques such as layering, piercing and cutting found and treated papers. Bowen was artist-in-residence with the word and Image Department and Paper Conservation Studio for 18 months in 2006-7. In the course of her residency she made a series of drawings inspired by the collections and intended as the centre-piece of a display, Sian Bowen: Drawing, Context and the Collection (14 February-28 May 2007).
Amongst the material studied in the V&A collections was the Harry S. Parkes collection of Japanese papers, amassed around 1870 in Japan. This prompted Bowen to research historic but now-vanishing treatments of paper and to acquire such papers to use in her drawings. For Gaze she used persimmon-treated paper (which has reddish-brown colouring and is waterproof), indigo papers dip-dyed up to nine times (giving them a dense colour and purplish bloom) as well as papers brushed with clay; she also worked with materials such as vellum. She had been intrigued by the potential of the Claude Glass (an 18th-century drawing aid) which she had seen in the British Galleries, so she commissioned a replica which she used to study and draw from selected objects in the collection, in particular a harlequinade -a small folding book telling the story of Cinderella. For Bowen this object was analogous to a folding tea house she had seen and been captivated by on a visit to Japan in spring 2006.
This drawing is one of three acquired by the Museum following the artist's residency. They show the central themes of Bowen's residency and represent the range of materials and techniques that she used. Designed to be seen unframed, suspended and lit from behind, these drawings are exquisitely beautiful; they embody the achievements and insights of the residency, melding art and craft.