Rowan Lear is an artist, writer and researcher, currently based in Glasgow.
In 2021, Rowan was awarded a PhD under the supervision of Prof Michelle Henning (University of Liverpool) and Prof Helen Hester (University of West London) for a project studying the embodiment of the photographer, combining archival research with posthumanist and new materialist philosophy.
Working across photography, sculpture, moving image and installation, Rowan has exhibited in the UK, Ireland and the USA, including two solo exhibitions Adheres to the Tongue (The Muted Horn, USA, 2018) and a sudden branching (Birnam Arts, Scotland, 2021). Rowan has participated in international artist residencies and presented research papers at conferences throughout Europe.
At The Photographers' Gallery, London, Rowan organised Planetary Processing, a peer-led forum for photographic artists concerned with ecology, geology and the body (2018-19), which included sessions led by Dr Theresa Mikuriya (University of West London) and Prof Johnny Golding (Royal College of Art). In 2019, Rowan co-organised with Prof Michelle Henning, a research workshop series called The Stuff of Photography (2019), with speakers Prof Esther Leslie (Birkbeck, University of London) and Dr Louise Purbrick (University of Brighton).
As well as a practising artist, Rowan has worked for many years within the arts sector across the UK, including at Ffotogallery, Cardiff; Arnolfini, Bristol; and Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), Glasgow. Rowan has served as a director of several arts organisations: the artist-led Bristol Biennial (2014-2017), B-side Arts and Media Festival in Portland, Dorset (2017-2019) and OSR Projects, Somerset (2019-present), and is a founding member of the Glasgow community co-operative The People's Plot. Since 2019, Rowan has cared for and curated a programme of workshops, talks and events as part of Glasgow Seed Library, a project hosted by CCA, Glasgow.
Rowan has taught arts and photographic history, theory and practice across university, gallery and adult education settings, and has particular interests in exploring photography in relation to gesture, materiality, labour, collectivity, extraction, pollution, queerness and multispecies life.
Qualifications and memberships
PhD Media (History, Theory and Philosophy of Photography)
MA Photography: Contemporary Dialogues, Distinction
BA Hons Photography and Film, First Class
HND Graphic Design and Illustration
Academic and research interests
In a practice heavily informed by research, Rowan attends to the chemical, crystalline and sticky aspects of living in the complex naturecultures of the anthropocene. This often involves making work in knowing and unknowing collusion with others, including artists, philosophers, scientists, animals, plants and fungi.
In 2021, Rowan completed their PhD thesis, A Photographing Body, which brought primary and archival research into photographic technologies, instruction and discourse, into conversation with philosophies of embodiment, ecology and indeterminacy.
Across research and practice, Rowan engages with feminist new materialist, posthumanist and process philosophy. In particular, Rowan thinks and writes with the work of Donna Haraway, Michel Serres, Elizabeth Grosz, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Karen Barad, Sara Ahmed, Vilém Flusser and Gilbert Simondon.
Rowan is interested in forming new collaborations with artists and researchers, working in or around photography, geology, ecology, continental philosophy, feminist posthumanism, media archaeology, new materialisms, queer theory and critical animal/vegetal studies.