It’s done. Artist David Bowie has left this world after an 18-month battle with cancer. Arguably one of the most influential musicians of our time, Bowie created work that infiltrated the lives of all kinds of artists, inspiring them to be bold with their own creations in the same way that he forged his own path with his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, over 40 years ago.
He is famously quoted as telling his fans, ‘I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring,’ and it’s a pledge that he lived up to throughout his 69 years on this planet.
We take a look at what influenced David Bowie and how he in turn influenced others:
Bowie’s own appetite for discovery was encapsulated in his first two albums, Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold the World, but it was only later, in a Proust questionnaire posed to him by Vogue magazine that we truly got insight into Bowie’s life theories. In our opinion, these two answers to the questionnaire bear special significance to his creative work:
What is your favourite journey?
‘The road of artistic excess.’
What is your motto?
‘”What” is my motto.’
When asked what he thought of himself in an interview with Russel Harty in 1973, Bowie described himself as a ‘collector of personalities, ideas…’.
a foray into visual art
Bowie attended art school and continued to create his own paintings, prints, sculptures and photographs throughout his life. In an interview with NYTimes writer Michael Kimmelman in 1998, Bowie says, ‘Art was, seriously, the only thing I’d ever wanted to own.’
Bowie went on to explain that his own aural work is influenced by visual work, saying that sometimes he experiences a cerebral moment of admiration for a piece, where he enjoys the idea or message that an artist is trying to relay through their work, and sometimes he experiences an emotional response, something that resonates within himself towards the piece.
In his own work, Bowie explained that creating art was about musical problem solving.
‘I’d find that if I had some creative obstacle in the music that I was working on, I would often revert to drawing it out or painting it out. Somehow the act of trying to recreate the structure of the music in paint or in drawing would produce a breakthrough.’
his own direction
In an interview with GQ in 2002 when he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the magazine, Bowie explained his need to contribute to the world in some way.
‘I suppose for me as an artist it wasn’t always just about expressing my work; I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture that I was living in. It just seemed like a challenge to move it a little bit towards the way I thought it might be interesting to go.’
There’s little doubt that Bowie managed to achieve his own direction creatively. So much so that his influence can be seen in the work of creatives today.
stepping into fashion
Kansai Yamamoto was already a burgeoning creative seeking to cut his own path before he began collaboration with Bowie on his outfits during his Ziggy Stardust tour to Japan.
‘I like bright colours, and I like to stand out in a crowd. So I had real empathy with Bowie. He’s from the West, I’m from the East, but we had the same crazy energy in our hearts. We inspired each other, and pushed each other to another level,’ Yamamoto says to the Telegraph of his work with Bowie.
Today, Yamamoto’s textiles are helping to redefine fashion. His use of inkjet printing on velvet, silk and other fabric is just one example of this.
return to simple design
For his newest album ★ or simply Blackstar, Bowie wanted the artwork to return to a more inclusive, simpler approach. So, artist and designer Jonathan Barnbrook took a stripped-down approach.
‘The use of basic shapes is partly about the union of archetypes, but it’s also about cutting through the visual noise. There’s so much visual clutter around now that I want to be simple to the point of excluding all other elements,’ he told itsnicethat.com.
With the launch of ★ Bowie seemed to push his creative journey to a new space, one that doesn’t feature him on any of the artwork, the first time he’d ever done that and an interesting final statement.