Trevor Bell



Trevor Bell 1930–2017
Acrylic paint on canvas
Support: 1160 × 2140 × 57 mm
Presented by the artist 2011


Calshot 1970 is a large painting in acrylic paint on two shaped canvases which together make a triangular form. Bell developed a painting practice that combined the formalist rigour of much abstract painting of the 1960s with references to external sources: landscape and nature, as well as personal experiences. Building on paintings inspired by, and evocative of, the Cornish coast and the Yorkshire Dales (see, for example, Forces 1962, Tate T13393), in the mid- and late 1960s he began to use shaped canvases and to make paintings that consisted of more than a single support.

Calshot was made while Bell was teaching at Winchester School of Art and at that time he spent much of his time sailing on The Solent. It is one of several works named for places on the Hampshire coast, its triangular form being evocative of boat sails. Bell was one of a number of painters who had started making shaped canvases in the mid-1960s, along with such contemporaries as the American Frank Stella (born 1936), with whose work his paintings were favourably compared by the British painter and critic Patrick Heron (1920–1999). The shaped formats often reinforced the evocative function of the imagery, as well as extending the formal ambitions of Bell’s compositions. The sense of tautness that is essential in sailing interested Bell; it lies behind both the forms of the canvases in Calshot and the tension created by the close relationship of the two separate parts. ‘I love the dynamics of sailing’, he said, ‘and it has a lot to do with some of the energy that I try to find in my work … in the way forces act on each other … there’s space and movement’ (quoted in Knowles 2009, p.32).

With works like Calshot, Bell also sought to bring the wall into the painting. In a manner that anticipates his later work, the edges of each canvas that are in close conjunction are undercut and painted with strong colour so that the colour (red in this case) reflects off the wall.

Further reading
Allys Palladino-Craig (ed.), Trevor Bell: A British Painter in America, Tallahassee 2003.
Elizabeth Knowles (ed.), Trevor Bell, Bristol 2009.

Chris Stephens
March 2011

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