DEBORAH BELL

BIOGRAPHY

(b. 1957, Johannesburg, South Africa)

WORK

 

Deborah Bell is one of South Africa’s most celebrated contemporary artists. She works in a range of media on canvas and paper, produces dry point etchings and large-scale bronzes. Her earlier more political work has given way to a broader, deeper investigation into the border been mortality and immortality, matter and spirit, presence and absence, the quotidian and the mythic, the grounded and transcendent. In recent years she has developed an immediately recognisable visual language, her images simple, stark, symbolic – grounded, silent, still, poised. As Ricky Burnett has stated: at the very edge of time.

 

In her iconography she draws from a range of cultures (including African, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, early Christian and European) and a range of philosophies (especially the Buddhist preoccupation with stillness and the shedding of attachment and the ego) and psychologies (more Jung than Freud) – but her work digs deeper, arriving finally out of an internal and personal place that Bell occupies in the world as an artist, a woman and an explorer. A central task is to make the unknown present – apprehended in a series of powerful images that are both of her and beyond her. Her earlier figures, characterised by entrapment (in the country, in the body), have given away to figures embodying the seeker – often accompanied by boats, horses, chariots. Images of lions, dogs, horses and angels recur. These are often intermediary figures between the physical world and a higher more spiritual realm. They are also aspects of herself – the powerful daemons that reside in all of us, which are often accompanied by solitary female figures, some full of assertive confidence, others more vulnerable and less sure of their agency. Bell is interested in the half-formed image – the unwritten, as yet unformed spaces we move towards in our quest for self-knowledge. More recent work has also become more concerned with surrender – to the higher self, the mystery of the universe, the simplicity of the present. All her art, she has stated, works towards the Zen mark: the single gesture of absolute presence. Her quest is ongoing – and has left in its wake a series of hugely powerful, totemic images from what Yeats called Spiritus Mundi.     

 

BIOGRAPHY

 

Deborah Bell has worked with a great variety of media during her career and has collaborated on various historically important projects with contemporaries such as William Kentridge and Robert Hodgins. Bell received her BAFA (Hons) and MFA degrees at the University of Witwatersrand, and has been an artist working abroad and a lecturer at various South African tertiary institutions, including the University of the Witwatersrand. Bell lives and works from her studio in Magaliesburg, as well as being a collaborator at the David Krut studios on several projects.

 

CV

 

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2019     

Selected works from Enthroned, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg

Co-Respondences, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg

Enthroned, CIRCA Gallery, Cape Town

2018      

Invocations to the Plate (Including Catalogue)

David Krut Projects, Johannesburg

142A Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood

2017      

Uncovering ancient memory – 15 years of etching,David Krut Projects, Cape Town

Recent Paintings and Sculpture, Everard Read Gallery, Franschhoek

Uncovering Ancient Memory - 15 Years of Etching, David Krut Projects, Cape Town

2016      

Blood and Gold, Everard Read Gallery, London

2015      

Renunciation, David Krut, Johannesburg

Dreams of Immortality, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg and Cape Town

2013      

What Would Wisdom Say to Your Dark Heart?, Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town

2012      

A Far Country, John Martin Gallery, London and at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival

2011      

Presence, CIRCA & Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg

2010      

Alchemy, David Krut, Johannesburg

2009      

Flux, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town

Collaborations, David Krut, Johannesburg

2007      

Objects of Power: memory of metal, memory of wood, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

2005-6  

Crossings and Monuments, Oliewenhuis Museum, Bloemfontein

2005      

Crossings and Monuments, Aardklop Festival Potchefstroom University Library Gallery

2004      

Sentinels, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

2002      

Unearthed, Joao Ferreira Gallery, Cape Town

2001      

Unearthed, The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

2000      

The Journey Home, Art First, London

1998      

Displacements, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

1995      

Muses and Lamentations, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

1989      

Deborah Bell, Potchesfstroom Museum

1982      

Deborah Bell, Market Gallery, Johannesburg

 

 

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2020

The Portrait Show, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg

1997      

Collaborations 1986-1997 (11 years of collaborative projects between artists Kentridge, Hodgins and Bell) at the

Johannesburg Art Gallery, in association with the FNB Vita Awards.

‘UB101:’ A portfolio of etchings done in conjunction with Kentridge and Hodgins. Exhibited at the Grahamstown Festival and at the Gertrude Posel Gallery. Exhibition curated by Fiona Rankin-Smith.

1994      

Memo, installation with video at the Grahamstown festival in collaboration with William Kentridge and Robert Hodgins.

Lamentations, Art First, Cork Street, London.

1993      

Easing the Passing (of the hours), Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

Portraits in the round, ceramic exhibition in collaboration with William Kentridge and Retief van Wyk at the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

1992      

Easing the Passing (of the hours), Waterfront, Cape Town. Computer Animation, laser prints and drawings in collaboration

with William Kentridge and Robert Hodgins.

1991      

Little Morals, a portfolio of etchings done in conjunction with Hodgins and Kentridge, exhibited at the Cassierer Gallery,

Johannesburg, Gallery International Cape Town and Taking Liberties, Durban.

1988      

Exhibited with Jenny Stadler and Nagel at the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

1987-88

Hogarth in Johannesburg, a portfolio of etchings done in conjunction with Hodgins and

Kentridge. This exhibition travelled to all the major centres in South Africa.

1985      

MAFA exhibition, Rembrandt Gallery, Milner Park, Johannesburg.

1983-4  

Exhibited with Hodgins and Sassoon, Carriage House Gallery.

 

 

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2016 -7 

TACIT : “A group exhibition acknowledging 20 years of conjunction and  reciprocity at Dionysus Sculpture Works’ studio and foundry” , NWU Gallery, Potchefstroom and William Humphey’s, Kimberley and Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria.

2015      

Bronze, Steel & Stone, CIRCA & Everard Read, Johannesburg and Cape Town

1:54 Everard Read Exhibition, London.

2013      

Summer of Sculpture, Everard Read, Cape Town.

Centenary Exhibition, CIRCA & Everard Read, Johannesburg.

2012      

Rainbow Nation: Group exhibition of South African Sculptors Museum Beelden Aan Zee, Den Haag.

2011      

HORSE: 60 South African artists curated by Ricky Burnett, CIRCA & Everard Read, Johannesburg.

2010      

TWENTY, 20 Years Of SA Sculpture, Nirox Foundation.

2009      

Contemporary Sculpture in the Landscape, Nirox Foundation.

2007      

Lift Off II, Goodman Gallery Cape, Cape Town.

David Krut print workshop, UNISA Art Gallery, Pretoria.

2005      

ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH, Miami Beach, USA, in collaboration with Goodman Gallery.

Works on Paper, Collaborative prints from David Krut Print Workshop, Franchise Gallery,Johannesburg.

David Krut Collaborations: 25 Years of Prints and Multiples, National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.

2004      

Earthworks/Claybodies, Sasol Museum Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch.

2003      

Earthworks/Claybodies, Pretoria Art Museum.

Earthworks/Claybodies, Standard Bank Centre Gallery, Johannesburg.

2000      

Icons for the Millenium, Atlanta, USA.

1999      

The Paper Show, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

Emergence, Group Show, National Arts festival, Grahamstown.

Artery, A.V.A Gallery, Cape Town – in conjunction with the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

Artists in residence, Standard Bank National Arts Festival, 25th Anniversary, Grahamstown.

1998      

Earth Hues – Contemporary African Art, Group Show, World Space, Washington DC, USA.

100 Artists Protest detention without trial, in aid of DPSC, Market Theatre, Johannesburg.

Artists for Human Rights Exhibition, Durban Exhibition Centre.

4 UNISA Lecturers, Bloemfontein .

UNISA Art Lecturers, Pretoria Art Museum.

1997      

1997

Images and Form: Prints, drawings and sculpture from Southern Africa and Nigeria, Brunei Gallery, University of London and

Edinburgh College of Art, U.K.

The Gencor Collection, Sandton Art Gallery, and The Grahamstown Festival.

Kempton Park Metropolitan Substructure Fine Arts Award Show, Kempton Park.

New Art from South Africa, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, U.K.

Les Arts de la Resistance, (Fin de Siecle a Johannesburg), Galerie convergence, Galerie Jean-Christian.

Fradin, Galerie Michel Luneau, Galerie les Petit Murs, Nantes, France.

Not Quite a Christmas Exhibition, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

CRAM, A.V.A Gallery, Cape Town – in conjunction with The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

1996      

Gay Rights: Rites, Re-writes, Travelling Exhibition, South Africa.

Group Salon, Rose Korber representing artists at the Bay Hotel, Cape Town.

Common and Uncommon Ground: South African Art to Atlanta, City Gallery East, Atlanta, USA.

Vita Awards, Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Tomorrow is Now, First Canadian Place and Knights Galleries International, Toronto, Canada.

Barber Signs, The Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg.

Recent Drawings, Gallery on Tyrone, Johannesburg.

Ceramics Biennal, Sandton Art Gallery.

1995      

The Bag Factory: The First Five Years, the Civic Theatre Gallery, Johannesburg.

The Art of Tea, Kim Sacks Gallery, Johannesburg.

Group Salon, Rose Korber representing artists at the Bay Hotel, Cape Town.

1994      

Group Show, Newtown, Johannesburg.

Anything Boxed, Group Show, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

South African works on Paper, North Western University of Illinois, Chicago, United States

1993      

Gallery on Tyrone, Johannesburg.

Vita Awards, Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Momentum Life Exhibition, Pretoria.

Internations of Millenium, Newtown Gallery, Johannesburg.

1992      

ICA, 50 Johannesburg Artists, Johannesburg.

Paris: The Catalyst, Alliance Francaise, Durban.

Looking at Art: Looking at Watercolours, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

Vita Awards, Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Works made in August, Newtown Gallery, Johannesburg.

1991      

Cape Town Triennal.

Painted People: Painted Spaces, Newtown Galleries, Johannesburg.

Hand Coloured Graphics, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

Tiny Tapestry Show, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

1990      

Women choose Women, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Art from South Africa, MOMA, Oxford, UK.

Standard Bank Drawing Competition, Johannesburg.

1989      

Volkskas Atelier Award Exhibition, South African Vita Awards, Johannesburg Art Gallery.

African Encounters, Dome Gallery, New York and Washington, USA.

The Little Big Show, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

1988      

CASA (Culture for Another South Africa), conference in Amsterdam, Holland.

Volkskas Atelier Award exhibition, South African Association of the Arts, Pretoria.

1986      

Volkskas Atelier Award Exhibition, South African Association of Arts, Pretoria.

1985      

Cape Town Triennal, New Visions, market Gallery, Johannesburg.

11 Figurative Artists, Market Gallery, Johannesburg.

 

 

AWARDS AND MERITS

2013      

MEDAL OF HONOUR FOR VISUAL ARTS (Sculpture and Painting), Die Suid-Afrikanse Academie for Wetenskap en Kuns

1997      

APSA Award for the best New Signature, Ceramics Biennal

1991      

Vita Quarterly Award, runner-up for Main Award

Mamba Award for the Most Sustained Artist

1986      

Merit Prize Winner, Volkskas Atelier

 

 

COLLECTIONS

BCE, Johannesburg

Bell, Dewar and Hall, Johannesburg

Bristol Myers Squibb Corp. USA

The Leeu Collection, Franschhoek

Delaire Graff Wine Estate, Stellenbosch

Friends of the National Gallery, Cape Town

Hara Museum, Tokyo

Johannesburg Art Gallery

Johannesburg City Council

King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth

Legal Resources Centre, Johannesburg

Museum of Modern Art, New York

MTN Art Institute, Johannesburg

Oliewenhuis Museum, Bloemfontein

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C

Pretoria Art Museum

Roodepoort Museum

SA National Gallery, Cape Town

BHP Billiton South Africa Ltd.

Sanlam Collection

Sasol Collection

Smithsonian Insitute, Washington, D.C

Standard Bank Investment Corporation, Johannesburg

Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg

Telkom

UNISA Art Gallery

University of Pietermaritzburg Collection

University of the Orange Free State Collection

University of the Witwatersrand Collection

 

 

COMISSIONS

1999      

Sculpture for Standard Bank

1991      

Large sculpture for Wits Business School

Artist-in-Residence, Standard Bank National Arts Festival – 25th Anniversary, Grahamstown.

1994      

Graphics for Weekly Mail Film Festival Poster

Involvement in movie animation for Arts Alive

Title sequence for Grass Roots, NNTV

1993      

Graphics for Weekly Mail Film Festival Poster

1990-1

Set of 6 Graphics for First National Bank