Artist Series E05 | How to Speak About Deborah Bell


(PART 1) An Introduction to Deborah Bell:

This podcast is part of the How to Speak About Deborah Bell Series which covers who Deborah Bell is, an overview of the artist’s career, her major influences and her body of prints produced with David Krut Projects which form an important part of Bell’s body of work as one of South Africa’s major printmakers. The information is taken from excerpts of the Deborah Bell Taxi Book and Deborah Bell’s Alchemy, both available through David Krut Publishers as well as personal reflections of the David Krut Projects team who have worked directly with Bell for many years.

(PART 2)Bell in the 80’s:

A woman trapped in the subtle violence of a male controlled self-identity

“It’s only in retrospect, in trying to work out what those spaces meant to me, that I think that there was an enormous amount of fear in those images, a fear of mortality. The passion was not about a coming together of true love and desire. It was a blind passion of lovemaking, not knowing what you were doing. It was an animalistic desperate passion.”

(PART 3) Bell in the 90’s:

A self-actualization as a woman and an artist

Turning points in an artist’s career are often identified in specific artworks. The Desert Expulsion series is Bell’s first major artistic move to a spiritual connection with ancient knowledge. This period is marked by a seemingly immovable rooted presence and personal strength. An identity connected to the earth, not defined through the male. In the Desert Expulsion series the figures are muscular, almost life size with large thighs and huge shoulders, a different type of self-portrait.

(PART 4) Bell’s Imagery:

Bell had been drawing the artifacts of ancient civilizations since she stumbled into the back room of a Johannesburg Art Gallery in 1989. Still today Bell draws inspiration from work in museums rather than contemporary art shows and has filled countless notebook with drawing research.

(PART 5) Bell’s Collaborations:

Robert Hodgins described the collaborations in the following way, “Collaboration is a very dodgy word, and whether Deborah Bell and William Kentridge and I really collaborate is perhaps uncertain.. We agree to do work with a common theme, each pursuing his own way into the theme… What occurs is not like, say, the collaboration of a composer or librettist; more comradely fiction, to our delight, produces unexpected sparks.”

(PART 6) Bell in the 2000’s:

A well understood spiritual pursuit

Whether or not we believe in Bell’s mystical interpretation of her work and in the path that leads to spiritual ascension does not matter. Bell’s extraordinarily expressive body of work constantly challenges us to remember and reflect on who we are and what gives a person’s life meaning. . Deborah Bell’s works reflect an endless struggling, groping, rising and falling in the search for a higher spiritual truth.

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