Deborah Bell

by Friday, April 5, 2013


Deborah Bell is a leading painter, sculptor and printmaker in South Africa. She received her B.A. (Hons) and M.F.A. degrees at the University of the Witwatersrand and has since lectured at various tertiary institutions, including the University of the Witwatersrand and UNISA. She has traveled and worked extensively in North America and Europe. Since 1982, she has had numerous solo and group shows, both locally and abroad.

Bell works in various media including painting, drawing, printmaking, animation and sculpture. She is an artist who collaborates with other artists and printmakers regularly. From 1986 to 1997, Bell collaborated with Robert Hodgins and William Kentridge on various projects, such as the Hogarth in Johannesburg print series and the animation, Memo.Collaborations 1986-1997, which was exhibited at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, celebrated their joint creations spanning one decade.

Bell is a frequent collaborator at the David Krut Print Workshop, where she has produced a number of prints over the years. She has worked with Jack Shirreff in the UK and Phil Sanders, a master printer from New York. She has also exhibited at David Krut Projects in Johannesburg and is the subject of the artist monograph TAXI-010 from the TAXI Art Book series. Her exhibition, Collaborations opened in 2009 at David Krut Projects, followed by Collaborations II in November 2010. A book by the same name was published.


Bell’s work is fundamentally informed by a personal search for the ‘self’ and she often draws on spiritual imagery from a wide range of sources. The connection to ancient sources and memories is linked to her spiritual beliefs and how she defines herself as an artist in Africa.

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Deborah Bell

by Friday, March 30, 2012

At first glance, Deborah Bell’s paintings defy the laws of gravity. Yet, as the viewer’s eye is drawn closer, what seems so free and airy reveals the ties of being human – those bonds we all forge with our hearts and eyes. What does it mean to behold, to believe and to feel? These are the questions Bell’s art poses, with a unique and exquisite decisiveness.

This artist views her shapes, marks and lines as a method of writing, her personal and lyrical version of musical notation. Thus, the works Bell forges can transmit a vivid range of reflections, from the warm breath in an ecstatic lick of pink to the sharp stabs of grief that emanate from a forest of tear shapes – somber and tenebrous hues buoyed by touches of garnet and gold.

Each piece of Bell’s work lives fully in the present. Yet no work is ever standing still. The lines and colors here are not content to merely resonate; instead they flame and float, soar and plunge, dance and rise.

The spectacle of Bell’s palette, which can be audacious or delicate, also draws on disparate rhythms. It embraces songs, echoes and repetitions; from the gentlest breeze to the most profound ecstasy.

Bell unites color and movement with a rare exhilaration. In her paintings – sometimes made on antique maps or bearing snippets of actual language- she confronts the tasks of starting out, starting over and starting afresh. The sense of sacred poise this generates is appropriate, for with each work Bell’s renews of her vows to our world.

Taken from Bell’s website. Written by Cynthia Rose.

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