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Genesis

Paintings after the Book of Beginnings Julian Bell 20 JUNE - 5 JULY 2015

ST ANNE’S GALLERIES REPRESENTING SUSSEX ARTISTS


JONATHAN JONES, ART CRITIC OF THE GUARDIAN, WRITES ABOUT JULIAN BELL’S INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE’S FIRST 33 CHAPTERS LET THERE BE LIGHT A teenager lies dead on the ground. His brother has killed him. It is a moment of horror, but the world’s beauty surrounds the bloody corpse, the guilty killer. Cain slew Abel in a golden field, according to Julian Bell. Beyond the rows of fluffy yellow stalks, hills mistily melt into a brilliant sky. The colours of Titian, the brush of Tintoretto set fire to this landscape. This world is so lovely. Why did Cain have to kill Abel in it? When Michelangelo unfurled Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he portrayed God as a creative artist. The act of creation is repeated with swirling emphasis up there in the vaulted heights. God must create the world, then Man, then Woman. Julian Bell is far more modest than Michelangelo. Indeed you might say this painter, so dedicated to what he can see, so free from bombast and so quietly individualistic, is the very last person you’d expect to paint a cycle of works narrating the same book that gave Michelangelo the grandeur his ego craved. But of course it is precisely the humility of Bell that makes his Genesis beautiful, moving, compelling. Bell’s art endlessly restages the moment when God said, “Let there be light.” His paintings are subtle plays of brilliance and variety in which the sheer magic of light is constantly breaking forth.

Not many painters today bother with the skills it takes to make a sun shine, a sky glow, a divine presence illumine the world. Bell does have those skills, and a feeling for the secret language of colour that evokes Venetian art, Matisse, and Monet. Look at his wondrous grapes on the vine, his middle eastern meal with a glittering glass vessel. Genesis, as shown here, happened in an age when reds were reds and blues were blues. In the youth of the world, all colours were more intense. And yet Bell is never crass or vulgar, never lays down cold fields of colour. His light is real and changing and alive. Even in the most extreme scenes - as when Cain slew Abel - we feel the flux of nature’s living light. Along with an appetite for the flow of colour that saturates our souls, Bell tells the stories of Creation, the Fall, the Flood and the early wanderings of God’s people with an honest simplicity and a visionary clarity. It is rather as if William Blake designed these images and Turner coloured them. The pictures are daringly innocent. Their wondrous courage defies all cynicism. Here is a story about how we came to be, told in colours that praise all we are capable of being. Jonathan Jones 2015


HID THEMSELVES (left) oil on panel 360 x 430mm

THE WOMAN GAVE ME (below) oil on panel 360 x 518mm

SHE TOOK oil on panel 360 x 461mm


CAIN AND ABEL (above) oil on panel 360 x 595mm

MAKE THEE AN ARK oil on panel 360 x 485mm

THERE WERE GIANTS (right) oil on panel 360 x 545mm


THE FOUNTAINS OF THE GREAT DEEP oil on panel 360 x 525mm

THE HIGH HILLS WERE COVERED oil on panel 360 x 795mm

CANAAN (above)

A SWEET SAVOUR

oil on panel 360 x 625mm

oil on panel 360 x 685mm

THE STARS AND THE CARCASES (right) oil on panel 360 x 520mm


SARAH LAUGHED oil on panel 360 x 537mm

HAGAR WEPT oil on panel 360 x 540mm

WHERE IS THE LAMB? oil on panel 360 x 625mm

GO IN UNTO MY MAID oil on panel 360 x 565mm

TO SLAY HIS SON oil on panel 360 x 485mm


1 LET THERE BE LIGHT, 360 X 793

2 IT WAS GOOD, 360 X 614

3  ADAM GAVE NAMES, 360 X 653

4 GOD BROUGHT EVE, 360 X 596

5 FLESH OF MY FLESH, 360 X 460

11 THERE WERE GIANTS, 360 X 545

12 MAKE THEE AN ARK, 360 X 485

13 THE FOUNTAINS OF THE GREAT DEEP, 360 X 525

14 THE HIGH HILLS WERE COVERED, 360 X 795

21 GO IN UNTO MY MAID, 360 X 565

31 BLESS ME, EVEN ME ALSO, 360 X 525

22 SARAH LAUGHED, 360 X 537

32 BEHOLD, A LADDER, 360 X 580

23 BRING THEM OUT UNTO US, 360 X 480 24 LAY WITH HER FATHER, 360 X 470

15 A SWEET SAVOUR, 360 X 685

25 HAGAR WEPT, 360 X 540

16 MY BOW, 360 X 483

26 WHERE IS THE LAMB?, 360 X 625

7 HID THEMSELVES, 360 X 430

17 HAM, SHEM AND JAPHETH, 360 X 460

27 TO SLAY HIS SON, 360 X 485

8  THE WOMAN GAVE ME, 360 X 518

18 BABEL, 360 X 625

28 I WILL DRAW WATER, 360 X 421

9  CURSED IS THE GROUND, 360 X 685

19 CANAAN, 360 X 625

29 WHAT PROFIT THIS BIRTHRIGHT, 360 X 715

10 C AIN AND ABEL, 360 X 595

20 THE STARS AND THE CARCASES, 360 X 520

30 ART THOU ESAU?, 360 X 580

6 SHE TOOK, 360 X 461

33 JACOB KISSED RACHEL, 360 X 595

34 IN THE MORNING IT WAS LEAH, 360 X 510 35 FATHER I CANNOT RISE, 360 X 465

36 THERE WRESTLED A MAN WITH HIM, 360 X 730 37 ESAU EMBRACED HIM, 360 X 540


JULIAN BELL 1952

Born in London

1970-73 BA in English Literature at Oxford University 1973-74 City & Guilds of London Art School From 1974 Self-employed painter of portraits, landscapes, town views, pub signs, murals, etc.

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 1978 Caius Gallery, Cambridge 1984

English-Speaking Union, New York

1988 Evidence of Things Not Seen, Judd Street Gallery, London

From 1981 Settles in the Lewes area

1989

Close Quarters, Judd Street Gallery, London

From 1990 Writing for journals, including Times Literary Supplement, Guardian, London Review of Books and New York Review of Books.

1996

Francis Kyle Gallery, London

1999

Francis Kyle Gallery, London

1999 What is Painting? Representation and Modern Art (Thames & Hudson)

1998

Francis Kyle Gallery, London

2004

Star Gallery, Lewes

2009

Scratch, St Anne’s Galleries, Lewes

2010

Inside Stories, Francis Kyle Gallery, London

2011

Rook Eggs, St Anne’s Galleries, Lewes

2013

Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, New York

2000-2008 Teaching at City & Guilds of London Art School 2007

 irror of the World: A New History of Art M (Thames & Hudson).

2009-2014 Teaching at Camberwell College of Arts From 2012 Teaching at Royal Drawing School

CURSED IS THE GROUND oil on panel 360 x 685mm

2014

Studio burns down, destroying all unsold work

SELECTED JOINT EXHIBITIONS 2012 Dreams of Here, with Tom Hammick and Andrzej Jackowski, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery PUBLIC COLLECTIONS Museum of London Brighton & Hove Museums


LET THERE BE LIGHT (detail) oil on panel 360 x 793mm

Exhibition available to view until 5 July 2015

ST ANNE’S GALLERIES Curator: SARAH O’KANE 111 HIGH STREET, LEWES, EAST SUSSEX BN7 1XY Mobile. 07777 691 050 Direct. 01273 407 119 sok@stannesgalleries.com www.stannesgalleries.com


Julian Bell Genesis - Paintings after the Book of Beginnings