Bowie: a master of reinvention

11 Jan 2016

Today is a sad day marking the loss of a remarkable man and one of our creative idols.

Will Gompertz, the BBC Arts editor, neatly sums up our feelings when he writes that ‘David Bowie was the Picasso of pop. He was an innovative, visionary, restless artist: the ultimate ever-changing postmodernist’.

Bowie’s influence is far-reaching. Who else could bring together such an eclectic bunch as David Cameron, Madonna, Kanye West and the Pope in mourning, with the Pope tweeting the lyrics to Space Oddity in tribute? From the millions of fans who grew up listening to that distinctive voice, to the musicians, film-makers, creatives and more who have been affected by his work, David Bowie’s remarkable influence is woven into our cultural cloth – a fitting legacy for one of Britain’s most innovative and ground-breaking artists.

It’s difficult to picture an individual who could compete against Bowie’s talent for subverting, reinventing and pushing the boundaries. His chameleon-like ability to create a new, ground-breaking persona was truly awe-inspiring – the son of a waitress and a nightclub owner, David Jones became David Bowie, who became Ziggy Stardust, who became Aladdin Sane, who became the Thin White Duke. Each alter ego was instantly iconic and each was comprised of so much more than simply exotic eyeliner and a theatrical attitude.

The invention of Ziggy Stardust is a perfect example of Bowie’s innate ability to read cultural cues in order to create something truly innovative. On a superficial level, the creation of the flamboyant new ego turned the pop of the early 1970’s in a new glam rock direction, effectively marking Bowie out as a master of the genre and a legendary performer. But that’s just scratching the surface – Ziggy also referenced artistic influences from pre-war European theatre, projected the 1980’s androgyny that was to come and predicted future discussions around a transgender spectrum, providing an intriguing, multi-faceted persona that demanded attention and provoked questions.

Bowie’s impressive appetite for the new and creative is inspirational, saying on his 50th birthday: ‘I don’t know where I am going from here, but I promise you it won’t be boring’. His career saw him move between alter egos, styles, genres and mediums, constantly experimenting and pushing the boundaries to create.

We salute a true innovator and a pioneer of reinvention who will be greatly missed.

Written by  David Goudge