|John Bell . . . from page 1
The paintings are largely architecturally inspired. Twenty-nine separate canvases comprise thirteen pieces; each piece has been specifically designed to relate directly to the architecture of the exhibition space.
Several years ago, Bell had the good fortune of purchasing a home designed by Salt Lake architect and architecture professor, John Sugden. The first thing Bell did was remove all the architectural degradations added by previous owners to uncover the purity of the original Sugden design. Much of this restoration work was personally accomplished by Bell. While hand painting the row upon row of steel I-beams of the roof structure, inspiration struck. The geometric purity of the exposed linear steel beams and juxtaposed steel roof deck, and the ever-changing nuances of the white paint left an indelible mark on his mind and spirit. The pristine structural elements seen from different angles and at different times of the day and night, with varying light levels, provided ever-changing shades and tones of white on white, which fascinated Bell. Those impressions, churned around inside the artist over time, and finally emerged as the catalyst behind the (re) DEFINING SPACE paintings.
Another aspect that became apparent as I became further acquainted with Bell and his work, is that he is a perfectionist as evidenced not only in the crafting of his three-dimensionally shaped canvases, but also in the application of the paint. The stretcher bars are meticulously cut, joined, and squared. The canvas has been expertly stretched and attached using upholstery “tricks”, yielding clean, tight seams that have been visually minimized. The acrylic paint washes are carefully “un-controlled,” providing a neutral yet interesting background for the fields of colorful geometric shapes, which form the abstract imagery. The lines of the colored shapes are straight and true, even as they extend around the corners of the three-dimensional canvasses.
The twenty-nine canvases that comprise the thirteen pieces of the (re) DEFINING SPACE series have been just as carefully and meticulously designed and choreographed to fit the exhibit space as they have been constructed and rendered. The canvases are designed to be wall hung, free standing and leaned against walls. Each piece has a strong individual identity; yet they all work together harmoniously as a complete and stunning whole.
These hard-edge and computer designed shapes are the antithesis of Bell’s previous penchant for abstract expressionism, yet when combined with the visual contrast and sense of freedom provided by the background washes, present a melding of geometric color-field painting and abstract expressionism.
Yes, Bell designed the pieces and the overall organization of the exhibit on the computer. Bell meticulously measured the exhibit space and carefully created a computer generated floor plan and interior elevations with which to study the overall space and the individual architectural elements to be used as backdrops for the paintings. The computer allowed Bell to quickly render many options for forms, shapes, and color combinations and develop the optimum design.
However, even though the design was created prior to paint ever touching the canvas, Bell did react intuitively with the shaped canvases, development of washes, applications of paint, and building of surface textures during the painting process. “Things evolved and changed along the way,” says Bell of his working style, “much as in abstract expressionism. The materials interact with the mind, eye and hand, allowing for spontaneity. Aspects such as the way a color shape turned a corner and extended across the next plane was revised and resolved during the painting process. The washes are very spontaneous even though I’ve learned to control them with various techniques.”
The texture of the colored shapes is also an important part of the design and provides tension as the intensity of the textures build toward the center of the composition. The eye of the viewer is led towards the apex, creating a strong focal point.
To learn more about these pieces, one needs to spend time sitting, quietly observing and feeling their presence. They begin to come alive with changing light and seem to take on a “living-vibrating” aura. Moving around the pieces reveals new variations and other relationships between elements and additional visual interest. One can easily imagine Bell, sitting and looking, contemplating, walking around and looking, then springing into action with brush in hand, diving into another session of painting.
I am impressed by the scale of these works, the amount of thought and concentrated effort that has gone into their design, the fine level of craftsmanship and attention to detail expended in their execution, and the speed with which they were created. Bell completed the series in approximately one month, and at the same time continued to run his business. This says a great deal about his level of commitment.
“I believe it is important for an artist to bring something else to the table besides the actual work,” Bell relates. “Gallery owners put so much time and money into representing an artist, I want them to know that I am there to help support the effort. I have the graphic skills to put together the promotional materials that make the artist more accessible to potential buyers and collectors.” Indeed, Bell has created an impressive and entertaining Press Kit and mini-portfolio for use by galleries in promoting this body of work. “I want to provide enough insight into who I am as an artist and person to help spark the viewer’s interest and perhaps get them to take more time to understand and appreciate the work.”
Yes, John Bell is the real deal. He has prepared well and developed his technical skills, understands his place in art history, waited until his work was ready for public exhibit, has the discipline and commitment to back up his words with actions, and understands the importance of establishing and maintaining the gallery/artist relationship.
“Never get locked into one way of doing things,” says Bell, “stay open to new ideas and directions, be expansive in your thinking, and ready to go with the flow of creativity.”
Bell is already planning his next series of paintings and also a sculptural installation. “One thing leads to another, and that to another, and so on.”
John Bell’s work can be seen at One Modern Art, 1074 East 2100 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84106.
Org Spotlight: The Arts Organizaton
Finding the Artist's Way
by Dana Hagio
Utah has many venues for instruction in creating art: University classes, private instruction, art academies, continuing education programs, plein air groups, etc. The Arts Organization, located in Salt Lake City, believes in a different type of art instruction: The art of creating the artist.
The Arts Organization’s Institute, the T.A.O. Institute, is committed to giving artists the opportunity to engage in the art of living; to connect with themselves and one another and express that connection creatively.
“There is a revolution going on right now,” says T.A.O’s Paige Paulsen, “the world is in a period of change. All aspects of life are changing with it. The work that people do, the way they live together, how they relate to one another and how they see their role in society and their place in the universe is changing. Humanity cannot continue to resolve 21st century dilemmas with 1st century guidelines. The classes in the Institute support this revolution through reawakening the individual’s artist within.”
The Institute offers a wide variety of classes, seminars and special events that support people as they “awaken to those natural gifts and abilities.” The Institute encourages “the ‘artist’ in all of us to create a new way of being in the world that is becoming.” The institute believes that the art of living is the process of creating more with our lives and in that process becoming conscious of self and community.
One of the most popular classes offered by the T.A.O. Institute is “The Artist’s Way” taught by Rick Graham. Graham is a practicing artist who exhibits widely in Utah and also instructs at Salt Lake Community College’s Department of Visual Arts. Graham says you need to look no further than children to understand that there is an artist in all of us.
“Children have an insatiable appetite to express and create,” Graham says. “It’s almost unimaginable to picture a small child with no desire to express how they feel, what they want, or who they are. Or to picture them not wanting to construct something out of finger paints, crayons, building blocks or generating sounds from a toy drum or piano. This drive to express and create is so inherent in the human psyche that in order to see its prevalence all one needs to do is look across the broad landscape of human activity to all of the images, literature, architecture, music, drama we as a species have generated.”
“Too often,” Graham says, “this natural longing to create can be discouraged by parents, siblings, teachers, schools, communities, and churches, causing a vital part of our soul to split off and become disowned. Even as a nation our culture isn’t very supportive of creative endeavors, often rewarding us for living a more financially “productive,” but less fulfilling life. We lose sight of how unproductive it can be to the sustenance of our souls to work decade after decade in a job we despise.”
As an art professor at SLCC, Graham began teaching The Artists Way , a 12-week course by Julia Cameron designed to remove blocks and restore creativity to our lives and found how powerful the process can be. “The sharing of stories, wounds, setbacks, and disappointments, as well has hopes and dreams, can be invaluable in recovering our creative selves and living a more fulfilling life,” Graham says. “The structure and accountability that a group setting provides creates support and encouragement and is a great advantage in staying on task with the processes outlined in Cameron’s empowering book.”
Graham has been teaching the course for the T.A.O. Institute for the past few years and has influenced a number of people in the community.. Pamela O’Mara, founded her Salt Lake City gallery, UTah Artist Hands, after taking the class. She writes: ‘I am most grateful for The Artist’s Way class; for the lasting friendships and support that I forged there; and for the many synchronicities and ‘morning pages’ that led me to finding my dream.’
Another student, Calli Letts, writes, ”The Artist’s Way class facilitated by Rick Graham was a place to gather with a soul-filled, artistic, sensitive group, who became a small, close knit community. Rick created a container in which we could share deeply and honestly, and where we could cry and laugh. The process supported me to find the courage to explore my love for color. In week eleven I knew without a doubt that it was time to leave formal education. I asked the universe what I could do and it responded with the words “sustainable building materials.” I got out the yellow pages and looked up building materials and serendipitously there was a listing for The Green Building Center. I explored the store, loved what I saw and how it felt. I then told the owner I would love to work for her. She had just hired someone, who then quit 3 weeks later, opening the door for me. I love what I am learning and plan to enhance that by pursuing a certificate in interior design. I believe that the Artist’s Way, Rick and the group led me to this opportunity.”
The Artist’s Way class is just one of the classes offered by the T.A.O. Institute to bring out the artist within all of us. For information about additional classes go to www.theartsorganization.com and click on classes and events or email info@theartsorganization with your questions.
Heather Weiler, of The Art Is In Gallery, is currently compiling a list of art classes, institutes, academies, workshops, etc, to be posted on Artists of Utah. To include your listing, contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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-- The Lamplight Gallery, a co-op gallery located on Main Street in Bountiful, has recently closed because they lost their lease.
-- The Meyer Gallery
reports having sold a Brian Kershisnik painting to an anonymous collector for $97,850. “Multitude” features more than sixty figures in a montage of Brian’s renowned works: his lovers, slivers, burdens, and every day tasks that make his work accessible and delightful.