Harriet Bell is a British artist born in Turkey in 1950. She currently lives and works in West Cornwall.
Her work is multifaceted ranging from sculptural components, to installation, to drawing. Her works are made in private and very rarely shown.
There is no specific narrative to the work but Bell often ‘borrows’ words and often rearranges those words, which are then cast like seeds. The images that she works from are stored in the details and intuitions of her life, her inner culture. Running from one to another, becoming clarified and whittled down of extraneous material, being forced – in the end – to express the essence of themselves. Her objective is to make work that is completely integrated; each piece to contain it’s meaning within but emanating that meaning as a presence around it. This spirit continues with numerous exquisite works made with pencil or collage on tracing paper, there is a sense of a narrative that once again exists beyond words. Clearly, Harriet Bell is an artist who remains suspicious of artist’s statements. Feeling that there is a sense that translating the meaning of the work in to the written word distracts from the language that the work itself contains. So her works must be experienced and the results of doing so are profoundly moving and personal. The only words present in the exhibition catalogue for her most recent solo exhibition catalogue were “We all have to leave”, this simple ‘summing up’ leaves little doubt that Bell is an artist who is able to just say it, without having to say much at all, it also gives clear insight in to the preoccupation of her artistic and existential questioning. Her sculpture and installations utilise materials that she finds in hedgerows or pound shops or anywhere for that matter. Harriet Bell is hoarder or collector, which is evident from the specimens she gathers and arranges. Materials such as stones, dried roots held inside milkbottles, empty eggshells, wiry stalks and folded cloth, are all examples from her collections. Like the remains from an archeological dig, works often feels archaic, like a museum archive, of drawers that are brimming with specimens all held under a single pin in categorical lines. Bell's works on paper, like the forensic trace of plant or animal life, incorporating collage with exquisite drawing offer alternative evolutions, of life beyond. Rather like a botanist uses specimens for scientific experiments, Bell then selectively displays her findings and drawings taking us beyond the realms of science and our present understanding of life and what lies beyond. The ever-changing cycle of life. Absence, presence, death and decay, growth and metamorphosis.
Despite her reclusive nature Harriet Bell’s works have been exhibited internationally, with major works acquired for private and public collections. Harriet Bell is represented by Anima-Mundi.