David Krut Projects (DKP) Johannesburg is pleased to present Renunciation, a solo exhibition by Deborah Bell opening on 9 May at our gallery at 142 Jan Smuts Avenue in Parkwood. Bell is a frequent collaborator at the David Krut Print Workshop (DKW), where she has produced a number of prints over the years. Renunciation presents the artist as printmaker ̶ focussing on the process of making and highlighting the collaborative nature of the medium. Bell says “…I’d like people to know that the doing is crucial – the idea of process diving to its own depth.”

Renunciation showcases a new body of work including intricate multi-plate prints displaying a range of techniques, such as is seen in the large-scale Parsifal series. Another exhibition highlight is the monumental Bride Stripped Bare, originating from a 2.5 metre zinc plate created in collaboration with Jack Shirreff at 107 Workshop in England in 2010 and recently completed with layers of hand-painting.

Inspired by museum objects from ancient civilisations including African, Babylonian and Egyptian, Bell’s work incorporates multi-layered references to past and present worlds. This connection to ancient sources and memories is linked to her spiritual beliefs and how she defines herself as an artist in Africa.

“I have a sense of having lived many lives on this earth. I have fleeting memories and visions of landscapes and cities. When I walk through museums, I am drawn to this greater memory of self which extends far beyond human existence.” – Deborah Bell

Bell stresses that the imagery, symbolism and meaning in her work often only becomes clear to her over time. Although each image has its own story, general themes emerge in the process of making and she does not set out with particular symbols in mind, or with the intention of conveying a certain message. She is often surprised when she looks back at her work to see that certain images recur without her having consciously realised it, and their meaning and importance to her personally emerge and evolve at their own pace on her journey of personal transformation. Bell states, “When I’m so caught up in the moment of doing, it’s almost as if that is where the true transcendence happens.”

Hence, Renunciation seeks to provide insight into Bell’s creative process and recurring imagery, and to present the audience with the references and insights that inform her artworks, such as preparatory sketches and notebooks. This exhibition further draws attention to the way in which Bell’s printmaking and collaborative projects influence her works in other media.

“Often collaborations and the projects that I work with in etching spread out and influence my other works and vice versa…I am always excited by the different properties of new forms or materials. It offers a strange freedom as I am not yet aware of the rules. I feel as though I am on an adventure and that the strangeness of the material itself will teach my hands what to do, and the shape suggests what image will appear.”

Bell is simultaneously the maker, the material and the made; in this dissolution of the self, the artists and the art become one. This mystical relationship is fundamental to understanding Bell’s creative process and how she thinks about her work being imbued with spiritual forces which emanate from deep within her. Her art-making is a spiritual practice in which the role of the artist is to co-create the world, to materialise what exists and has existed for all time.