TREVOR BELL ''AT EIGHTY : EARTH AIR FIRE WATER AETHER' - 28/8 TO 19/9/10


“I think about things that excite me: convoluted strata, the eroded and broken edges of cliffs, the constant interaction of the elements, the movement of boats on water...

I think about the object and its inner image; the activity of each and the play between the two and I try to be straight forward to remove unnecessary information.

For all the theorizing, formal and conceptual notions, the truth of the matter is that I see myself as a conduit - the titles come afterwards so that I don’t impose myself on the work as it goes along. Then I leave it alone.

I have been saying the same thing all my working life, just in different ways.”

This was written for my 2002 Lydon Contemporary exhibition in Chicago and here I am in 2010 realizing that whatever I might conjure up - I could not, and should not say more.


Trevor Bell, 2010


INTRODUCTION

It is an enormous privilege to be showcasing this extraordinary exhibition of new work by Trevor Bell to commemorate his eightieth birthday.

As I write these words, with raw memory having recently arrived back from the studio, having been confronted by this monumental collection, I have to pinch myself to re-register that this giant of 20th and now 21st Century painting has created these paintings unaided at such a grand age. However whilst marveling at the brave and youthful energy of the physical gestural mark making it is clear that they could only have been achieved to such effect aided by the wisdom and confidence of advanced experience. Such a rare combination is incredibly inspiring, indeed moving.

This afternoon whilst at the studio I pointed to a photograph of Bell working on an epic painting standing some two stories high taken whilst in the USA some years ago. “I’ve still got it in me you know” Bell enforced, with that steely (now familiar) look with associated glint in the eye. I have no doubt about it.

The work itself needs no further introduction by me - the exhibition title suggests enough, and of course the paintings themselves say it all, when seen and when felt. I have however placed below, extracts from selected texts written about Bell’s works over the years by way of paying homage to this important occasion and to a remarkable man who’s life time has been spent making work of such impact and timeless relevance.

Joseph Clarke, 2010


"The Spontaneity that we have idolised since the coming of Romanticism as the hallmark of sincerity and creative drive is here replaced by a tactical skill that marshals pictorial elements and firmly controls them without denying them their individual life."

Norbert Lynton, Art Critic and Historian New Statesman, 1964


"Trevor Bell’s paintings cover a range wider than most artists would think prudent. What makes them so interesting is that his themes run parallel rather than in strict sequence... But after experiencing surprise at the difference of the works one begins to understand their basic and persistent themes and finds a strong sense of continuity... From 1960 - 1963 Bell was making paintings whose interior shapes referred to landscape - but to the forces as much as to the forms of landscape; and it was this concern for what is best described as dynamics which led him naturally into an investigation of the mechanisms of painting itself."

John Elderfield, Head Curator of MOMA New York and Art Historian, 1970


"One of the most important painters working anywhere today is Trevor Bell... As far as I am concerned [Bell’s paintings] are far and away the most original and successful shaped canvas paintings - which remain paintings - to have been produced anywhere. But the task of justifying this judgement and of explaining, even to myself, the reasons for their very great power and beauty is daunting in the extreme, because so much about their construction, their literal appearance and colour, is unique and therefor outside existing terms of formal comparison and analysis ."

Patrick Heron, Artist, 1970


"Works on paper and studies for paintings stand up well on their own, showing careful thought that underlines the blazing paintings... With their disarming appearance of irresponsible spontaneity. A tough, experienced and travelled sensibility has been at work, making light-filled glowing paintings which flirt interestingly somewhere between stridency and serenity."

Marina Vaizey, Art Critic, Author, Curator, Broadcaster, Financial Times, 1973


"Bell has chosen to set before us images which, in part, are to do with the energy of human touch set against a pictorial space which evokes the painting tradition of evocations of the sublime. In this way, encouragingly and honestly naive in our contemporary culture which values such feelings below the cynical and the pessimistic, Bell reflects the optimism which has always underpinned the best abstract art."

Michael Tooby, Gallery Director and Curator, Tate Gallery St. Ives catalogue, 1999


"Bell’s immediate surroundings, and the craggy Cornish coastline in particular, provided important stimuli for his abstractions. Like the early Kandinsky, he often derived his motifs from the landscape, then distilled them to the point where their origins are obscured but not lost."

Helen A Harrison, Art Critic and Historian, New York Times, 2002


"Bell’s art is, in the loosest sense, spiritual. It evokes, or reflects, an idea of some abstract force that exceeds material reality... In this sense, we can see his art as solidly rooted in the values of 1950’s St. Ives, where artists sought to salvage the fantasy of utopian modernism for the post-war world through a re- engagement with nature. The dangers and losses of the modern world would be compensated through the rediscovery of natural order and process, and a renewed sense of individual identity would be established through the exploration of forces larger than ourselves. Bell’s work, one might say, has always derived in one way or another from this new sublime."

Chris Stephens, Head of Displays at Tate Britain, Modern Painters, 2000


“This work is a celebration of life and the act of painting. Walk up close and allow the paintings to fill your peripheral vision - feel the physicality of the experience. Their image sense is potent.”

Lynne Green, Writer, Publisher and former Gallery Director, Trevor Bell : Both Ends of The Stream, 2009


"Art does not make social statements, but contributes to society on a deeper, less tangible level. I feel that what we should get from art is a sense of wonder, of something beyond ourselves, that celebrates our ‘being’ here."

Trevor Bell Modern Painters 2002
   



Windance
mixed media on board and ply wood
117 x 100 cm





Windance Duet
mixed media on board and ply wood
107 x 193 cm





Windance Three
mixed media on board and ply wood
101 x 98 cm





Swell
mixed media on board and ply wood
109 x 190 cm





Split
mixed media on board and ply wood
110 x 240 cm





Gust
mixed media on board and ply wood
52 x 112 cm





Voyage
mixed media on board and ply wood
116 x 285 cm





Knife
mixed media on canvas
72 x 83 cm





Ancient
mixed media on canvas
72 x 83 cm





Big Oval
mixed media on canvas
212 x 261 cm





Heel
mixed media on canvas
196 x 211 cm





Big Round
mixed media on canvas
228 x 242 cm





Stop
mixed media on canvas
163 x 158 cm





Spike
mixed media on canvas
161 x 165 cm





Breaker
mixed media on canvas
161 x 165 cm





Rock
mixed media on canvas
163 x 158 cm





Danger
mixed media on canvas
161 x 165 cm





Float
mixed media on canvas
163 x 158 cm





Cheer
mixed media on board
59 x 59 x 10 cm





Cheeky
mixed media on board
55 x 55 x 10 cm





Ogam
mixed media on canvas
148 x 200 cm