Deborah Bell


deborah bell unheard centre bronze edition 7 of 9 83 x 21 x 20cm gkac

Deborah Bell
(b. 1957, Johannesburg, South Africa)

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. Bell has developed an immediately recognisable visual language, her images simple, stark, symbolic – grounded, silent, still, poised.

Bell is fascinated by ancient civilisations and their excavated artefacts and her work incorporates powerful, totemic images and layered visual, symbolic and iconographic references of past and present worlds. In her iconography, the artist draws from a range of cultures - African, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, early Christian, European - and a range of psychologies and philosophies, particularly the Buddhist preoccupation with stillness and the shedding of attachment and the ego.

In Bell’s recent work, human figures have embodied the seeker on a journey, often accompanied by lions, hounds, wolves, horses and totemic modes of transport such as boats and chariots. However, her latest body of work, is characterised by a sense of coming home, a greater emphasis on the human body being on this earth. There is an increased sense of acceptance of our materiality; a surrendering to who we are, and the suggestion of an end to the constant quest for transcendence.

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.