DEBORAH BELL

BIOGRAPHY

DEBORAH BELL
(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 EXHIBITION

2019
Enthroned, CIRCA Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

2018
Invocations to the Plate, David Krut Projects, Johannesburg, South Africa

2017
Uncovering Ancient Memory – 15 years of etching, David Krut Projects, Cape Town, South Africa
Recent Paintings and Sculpture, Everard Read Gallery, Franschhoek, South Africa
Uncovering Ancient Memory - 15 Years of Etching, David Krut Projects, Cape Town, South Africa

2016
Blood and Gold, Everard Read Gallery, London

2015
Renunciation, David Krut, Johannesburg, South Africa
Dreams of Immortality, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa

2013
What Would Wisdom Say to Your Dark Heart?, Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

2012
A Far Country, John Martin Gallery, London and at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival

2011
Presence, CIRCA & Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2010
Alchemy, David Krut, Johannesburg, South Africa

2009
Flux, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
Collaborations, David Krut, Johannesburg, South Africa

2007
Objects of Power: memory of metal, memory of wood, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2005-6
Crossings and Monuments, Oliewenhuis Museum, Bloemfontein, South Africa

2005
Crossings and Monuments, Aardklop Festival Potchefstroom University Library Gallery, South Africa

2004
Sentinels, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2002
Unearthed, Joao Ferreira Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

2001
Unearthed, The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2000
The Journey Home, Art First, London

1998
Displacements, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

1995
Muses and Lamentations, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

1989
Deborah Bell, Potchesfstroom Museum, South Africa

1982
Deborah Bell, Market Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

GROUP EXHIBITIONS
(2/ 3 Person Exhibitions)

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, South Africa
‘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, South Africa

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

1992
Easing the Passing (of the hours), Waterfront, Cape Town. Computer Animation, laser prints and drawings in collaboration with William Kentridge and Robert Hodgins, South Africa

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, South Africa

1988
Exhibited with Jenny Stadler and Nagel at the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

1987-08
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, South Africa

1985
MAFA exhibition, Rembrandt Gallery, Milner Park, Johannesburg, South Africa

1983-4
Exhibited with Hodgins and Sassoon, Carriage House Gallery, South Africa

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2019
Masterpiece London Art Fair, Everard Read, London, UK
SUMMER, Everard Read, London, UK

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, South Africa

2015
Bronze, Steel & Stone, CIRCA & Everard Read, Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa
1:54 Everard Read Exhibition, London.

2013
Summer of Sculpture, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa
Centenary Exhibition, CIRCA & Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa

2012
Rainbow Nation: Group exhibition of South African Sculptors, Museum Beelden Aan Zee, Den Haag, South Africa

2011
HORSE: 60 South African artists curated by Ricky Burnett, CIRCA & Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa

2010
TWENTY, 20 Years Of SA Sculpture, Nirox Foundation, South Africa

2009
Contemporary Sculpture in the Landscape, Nirox Foundation, South Africa

2007
Lift Off II, Goodman Gallery Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
David Krut print workshop, UNISA Art Gallery, Pretoria, South Africa

2005
ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH, Miami Beach, USA, in collaboration with Goodman Gallery, South Africa
Works on Paper, Collaborative prints from David Krut Print Workshop, Franchise Gallery,Johannesburg, South Africa
David Krut Collaborations: 25 Years of Prints and Multiples, National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa

2004
Earthworks/Claybodies, Sasol Museum Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

2003
Earthworks/Claybodies, Pretoria Art Museum, South Africa
Earthworks/Claybodies, Standard Bank Centre Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2000
Icons for the Millenium, Atlanta, USA.

1999
The Paper Show, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Emergence, Group Show, National Arts festival, Grahamstown, South Africa
Artery, A.V.A Gallery, Cape Town – in conjunction with the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Artists in residence, Standard Bank National Arts Festival, 25th Anniversary, Grahamstown, South Africa

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, South Africa
Artists for Human Rights Exhibition, Durban Exhibition Centre, South Africa
4 UNISA Lecturers, Bloemfontein, South Africa
UNISA Art Lecturers, Pretoria Art Museum, South Africa

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, South Africa
Kempton Park Metropolitan Substructure Fine Arts Award Show, Kempton Park, South Africa
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, South Africa
CRAM, A.V.A Gallery, Cape Town – in conjunction with The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

1996
Gay Rights: Rites, Re-writes, Travelling Exhibition, South Africa
Group Salon, Rose Korber representing artists at the Bay Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa
Common and Uncommon Ground: South African Art to Atlanta, City Gallery East, Atlanta, USA
Vita Awards, Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa
Tomorrow is Now, First Canadian Place and Knights Galleries International, Toronto, Canada
Barber Signs, The Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Recent Drawings, Gallery on Tyrone, Johannesburg, South Africa
Ceramics Biennal, Sandton Art Gallery, South Africa

1995
The Bag Factory: The First Five Years, the Civic Theatre Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
The Art of Tea, Kim Sacks Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Group Salon, Rose Korber representing artists at the Bay Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa

1994
Group Show, Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa
Anything Boxed, Group Show, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
South African works on Paper, North Western University of Illinois, Chicago, United States

1993
Gallery on Tyrone, Johannesburg, South Africa
Vita Awards, Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa
Momentum Life Exhibition, Pretoria, South Africa
Internations of Millenium, Newtown Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

1992
ICA, 50 Johannesburg Artists, Johannesburg, South Africa
Paris: The Catalyst, Alliance Francaise, Durban, South Africa
Looking at Art: Looking at Watercolours, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Vita Awards, Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa
Works made in August, Newtown Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

1991
Cape Town Triennal, Cape Town, South Africa
Painted People: Painted Spaces, Newtown Galleries, Johannesburg, South Africa
Hand Coloured Graphics, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Tiny Tapestry Show, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

1990
Women choose Women, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Art from South Africa, MOMA, Oxford, UK.
Standard Bank Drawing Competition, Johannesburg, South Africa

1989
Volkskas Atelier Award Exhibition, South African Vita Awards, Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa
African Encounters, Dome Gallery, New York and Washington, USA.
The Little Big Show, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

1988
CASA (Culture for Another South Africa), conference in Amsterdam, Holland.
Volkskas Atelier Award exhibition, South African Association of the Arts, Pretoria, South Africa

1986
Volkskas Atelier Award Exhibition, South African Association of Arts, Pretoria, South Africa

1985
Cape Town Triennal, New Visions, market Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
11 Figurative Artists, Market Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa


AWARDS AND MERITS

2013
MEDAL OF HONOUR FOR VISUAL ARTS (Sculpture and Painting), Die Suid-Afrikanse Academie for Wetenskap en Kuns, South Africa

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