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Trevor Bell is interested, primarily, in painting’s power to evoke sensation, which for him supersedes any illusionistic properties that it might have. Importantly, these are not metaphorical works - they are made to exist in their own right and on their own terms, as objects in the world with a voice. Ambitious in scale and dynamic in form, the range of work is diverse, but they continue to show a brave and youthful energy aided by the wisdom and confidence that comes with experience.
Bell, who is now in his eighties, has been receiving critical acclaim from a new generation of artists and collectors who recognise his direct abstract forms, which loudly represent the irrepressible forces found in the natural world.
“Trevor Bell's paintings do need time to unfold. They call for slow contemplation. The complexity of experience and memory, bound in tension between the interior and exterior logic of these abstract canvases, gradually reveals itself. Only then can the event of viewing relate to the event of making, which again, the artist confirms, takes time’ - Sarah Matson, Curator, Tate St.Ives
Bell was awarded a scholarship to attend The Leeds College of Art from 1947 to 1952 and, encouraged by Terry Frost, moved to Cornwall in 1955. St Ives was the epicentre for British abstract art and home to influential artists such as Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth and Terry Frost. Bell soon secured his reputation as a leading member who helped establish British Art on the international stage.
From these artists and peers, Bell received advice and support. Ben Nicholson, alongside his then dealer Charles Gimpel, encouraged him to show in London and Waddington Galleries gave Bell his first solo exhibition in 1958. Patrick Heron wrote the introduction to the exhibition catalogue, stating that Bell was ‘the best non-figurative painter under thirty’.
In 1959 Bell was awarded the Paris Biennale International Painting Prize, and an Italian Government Scholarship and the following year was offered the Fellowship in Painting at the University of Leeds, so he moved back to his hometown. Bell went on to become a Gregory Fellow at Leeds University and it was during this period that Bell developed his shaped canvases, setting his work apart from other artists of his generation.
Throughout the 1960’s Bell showed work in major exhibitions in the UK and USA and during this time his work was first purchased as part of the Tate collection. In 1973 he presented his new work at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, having just taken part in a major exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC. Over the course of the next thirty years Bell has combined painting with teaching in various locations, eventually moving to Florida State University in 1976 to become the Professor for Master Painting. Here with the provision of a warehouse sized studio and time to really develop his painting he produced the large-scale, intensely coloured works for which he is best known, reflecting the influence of the climate and landscape on his work. He went on to spend the next 20 years in America. Important exhibitions were held at the Corcoran Gallery and the Academy of Sciences in Washington, the Metropolitan Museum in Miami, The Cummer Gallery and the Museum of Art, Florida.
In 1985 Bell was included in the London Tate Gallery’s St Ives 1939-64 exhibition and in 1993 he was part of the inaugural show of the Tate St Ives, where he was again re-established as part of the St Ives artists movement. He moved back to Cornwall in 1996. Bell had a major solo exhibition at Tate St.Ives in 2004 and in 2011 a further 14 works were obtained by Tate for their permanent collection.
Bell has had works purchased and commissioned by numerous other international museums and public and private collections including (among others) The Arts Council of England, British Council, British Museum, Boca Raton, Laing Art Gallery, Ljubljana’s U.V.U Keleia Collection and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Bell is twice a recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Council of Florida, an Honorary RWA from the Royal Western England Academy, An Honoury Fellow of University College Falmouth and an Emeritus Professorship by Florida State University.