Résumé

Richard Bell (b.1955 Welwyn, near London) is a British abstract artist. He studied painting (Fine Art) from 1973-1977 at Falmouth School of Art, Portsmouth Polytechnic (Dept. of Fine Art), and Illinois University, USA (Scholarship 1976).

Work can be seen in a number of public and private collections including:

The South Bank Collection (Arts Council).
The National Art Library (Special Collections).
The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts Collection of Abstract and Constructivist Art (University of East Anglia) GB.
The Mondrianhuis Collection, Amersfoort, Holland.
Kunst Sammlung Stadtische Museen, Jena, Germany.
The Mercus Barn, Ariège Pyrénées.
Richard Bell British Artist

The paintings by Richard Bell are not simply mathematical or geometrical motifs. They perform as metaphor; as linkage to language, poetics and the phenomenological changes in surface colour and light. His art practice provides the site for the active role of the respondent; seeing, responding, and interpreting as an event in time. Transformative and transient energies are perceived as new material colour-fields, boundaries and edges.

Curatorial notes.

2017-2018 – Bell curated the exhibition 'Transforming Surfaces'  (6 artists) for the Arthouse1 Gallery, London, which was shown in June 2018. He wrote in the catalogue:

Transforming Surfaces (Installations ) was preceded by two related and separately curated exhibitions held during 2017-2018: 'Ground, Rules, Paintings: A Quartet' , La Galerie Lycée Gabriel Fauré, Foix, Ariège Pyrenées (curated by David Saunders), and 'entr'acte : intermission', AbstractProject Galerie, Paris (A Saturation Point Project).

2016 – Solo exhibition at ‘The Mercus Barn’ (an artist’s run project established by David Saunders) in Ariège Pyrenées (France). This event contributed to the ‘Eye and Mind’ (see footnote) series of exhibitions.

2003 – Painting acquired for the permanent collection, Forum Konkrete Kunst, Erfurt, Germany.

1998 – Bell was represented in the 'British Collection of Concrete and Constructivist Art' exhibited in Erfurt, Germany. The art critic and historian Eugen Gromringer commented that:

'for Richard Bell colour represents a dominant medium. An overview of his pictorial world impresses one by the consistence with which he stays close to the theme of the meeting of colour fields. On the other hand, he sensitizes this meeting even further in the earlier work through the overlapping or the superimposing of colour fields whereby the formal grid is constituted out of the geometrical fields, which brings into play the colours on the canvases'. (ref: Speech for the exhibition published 9 July 1998).

1992 – Paintings purchased by the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts (UEA), Collection of Abstract and Constructivist Art. Paintings by the artist were exhibited in the ‘Fortieth Anniversary Exhibition’ (Abstract and Constructivist Art Collection) at the Sainsbury Centre in 2008.

1989 - Bell, Charlett and Saunders went on to curate a further exhibition of their work, 'Complexions', shown at the Dean Clough Contemporary Art Gallery in Halifax, which had British Council support to tour to Galerie L’Idee, Zoetermeer, Holland.

1986 - Bell co-curated 'Colour Presentations' (with artists Nicole Charlett and David Saunders - supported by the Welsh Arts Council), a touring exhibition in England and Wales that brought the work of Jeffrey Steele, Jean Spencer and David Saunders (previous participants in the ‘Systems’ group) together with Trevor Clarke, Bell and Charlett, to stimulate conversation on colour and language, interpretation and questions of indeterminacy.

A transcript of its public seminar at the Gardner Centre Gallery, University of Sussex, was published in the Art Monthly (No. 99). British composers Michael Parsons and Howard Skempton (who have a long association with systematic and constructive art) accompanied the exhibition with performances of experimental music at each of the opening events, developing a discourse centred on complementarity and differences between 'systematic music' and relational colour painting. The philosopher Bernard Harrison, who originated the term 'Colour Presentations', published his essay in the exhibition catalogue. 1980-1990 –the artist’s practice and research concentrated on developing a new colour syntax, experimentations with surface-material qualities (facture), and collaboration on the social reading of painting.

Between 1981 and 1986 the artist collaborated in the ‘Group Proceedings’ forum, and a number of ‘Exhibiting Space’ events. Both these forums facilitated a theoretical and critical space for dialogue on constructive art practices.

1981 – Participated in 'the House Construction Show' at the House Gallery, in London, which grouped together the work of a number of artists who were beginning to enquire into a more collaborative ‘systematic and constructive art practice’. The art critic, Stephen Bann commented on how Bell’s paintings ‘succeed in marrying conceptual rigour with a high degree of aesthetic 'rightness' (ref Art Monthly No. 47).

1977 – Arts Council bursary to complete the construction of a series of wood reliefs.

Early influences include the work of the St Ives school of post war abstraction. As a young student at Falmouth he began to experiment with time-based colour field painting. He was introduced to experimental music by a performance of John Cage given by the performer John Tilbury. This led him to study Fine Art at Portsmouth, where he was influenced by the experimental aspects of systematic/ programmatic art and music, the teaching of British artist Jeffrey Steele, and the various histories of 20th century constructive and abstract art practice. In particular, the Swiss ‘art concrete’ artists, as well as, more diverse movements including the ‘Support/Surfaces’ artists in France. On a scholarship to the U.S. in 1975, he was able to visit key architectural sites, and to see the New York collections at MoMa and Whitney; in particular the early paintings by Ad Reinhardt, and to study the minimalist methods of artists such as R. Ryman, D. Judd and Agnes Martin.

The Eye and Mind exhibitions contributed to the interest in: L’Oeil et L’Esprit, par Maurice Merleau-Ponty: écrit en 1961 et inclus dans la collection, Vers une nouvelle ontologie’, Gallimard, 1964. Translated into English as, Eye and Mind, included in The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader, ed. Galen A Johnson, trans. Michael B Smith, North Western University Press, 1993