Camera Obscura and Other Stories
24th-29th May 2011

hosted by Four Square Fine Arts
at the Gallery in Redchurch Street, London E2

Camera Obscura and Other Stories

Camera obscura n. a darkened box or room with a lens or aperture for projecting the image of an external object on to a screen inside. (Latin. = dark chamber.) (The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1995)

For her new collection of work Bell is responding to the literal meaning of Camera Obscura, that of the hidden or dark room and yet, her use of found photographs as templates for her drawings suggest something a little less tenuous. Bell works with a group of somehow familiar family images from which she selects figures and objects with which to tell her stories. The photographs are of children, clearly cajoled into standing stiffly before box brownies or Kodak throwaways, of adults at what must have been red-letter days for them, weddings, birthdays and family get togethers, and of mundane domestic objects. As with most of her work, Bell encourages us to make connections, to find relationships with these universal images of family, of home and of childhood.

However, the drawings of these events, these people, are obscured. Bell obfuscates and blurs the readings, faces become illegible, the sense of place is merely suggested at by a dotted reference to a garden, somewhere. She uses dark narratives to fill the templates — narratives that, as the title suggests are boxed in. This is a series of works about memory — memory that is fragmentary, unreliable — certainly not something that could claim to be truth, or indeed absolute, even within a family.

Photographs remain as testaments, as reminders of certain days, or important events and yet are often no more than staged tableaux – smiles are fixed, hands are held and faces stare ahead rigid with discomfort. It is the extraordinary within the ordinary that Bell is interested in communicating. The texts she chooses to work with offer clues but even they are ambiguous.

This collection also features a series of abstracted text pieces. They are conversations, ‘night murmurs’ Bell calls them, voices in the dark, repeated phrases that reveal a certain spoken banality that often follows deep feeling. Again, this universality — we have all been there — the over-used use of the word ‘love’, the terms of endearment, which from a distance appear hackneyed and yet are used with such fervour, such rapture at the time, in those dark, hidden rooms.

Ellen Bell
March 2011

For further information please visit www.foursquarearts.co.uk

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EllenBell_Parley_Games2010

Parley Games, 2010

74 x 57 x 7cm
Text from Scrabble Word Guide, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1974 & acid free glue

EllenBell_Parley_Games2010(close-up)

Parley Games, 2010

74 x 57 x 7cm
Text from Scrabble Word Guide, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1974 & acid free glue

EllenBell_Parley_Games2010(detail_of_text)

Parley Games, 2010

74 x 57 x 7cm
Text from Scrabble Word Guide, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1974 & acid free glue

EllenBell_Closer2011

Closer, 2011

44 x 41 x 7 cm
Text from Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, published 1963, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Penguin Books, 2000, The Lover by Harold Pinter, Faber & Faber, 1991, Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde, Penguin, 1995 Look Back in Anger by John Osborne circa 1960s and Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen published 1965 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Closer2011(close-up)

Closer, 2011

44 x 41 x 7 cm
Text from Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, published 1963, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Penguin Books, 2000, The Lover by Harold Pinter, Faber & Faber, 1991, Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde, Penguin, 1995 Look Back in Anger by John Osborne circa 1960s and Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen published 1965 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Closer(detail2)

Closer, 2011

44 x 41 x 7 cm
Text from Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, published 1963, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Penguin Books, 2000, The Lover by Harold Pinter, Faber & Faber, 1991, Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde, Penguin, 1995 Look Back in Anger by John Osborne circa 1960s and Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen published 1965 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Closer(detail3)

Closer, 2011

44 x 41 x 7 cm
Text from Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, published 1963, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Penguin Books, 2000, The Lover by Harold Pinter, Faber & Faber, 1991, Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde, Penguin, 1995 Look Back in Anger by John Osborne circa 1960s and Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen published 1965 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Closer(detail4)

Closer, 2011

44 x 41 x 7 cm
Text from Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, published 1963, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Penguin Books, 2000, The Lover by Harold Pinter, Faber & Faber, 1991, Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde, Penguin, 1995 Look Back in Anger by John Osborne circa 1960s and Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen published 1965 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Motherland(2)2010

Motherland (2), 2011

75 x 58 x 5cm
Text from various Barbara Cartland romantic novels published in the twentieth century by Pan & front cover from an edition of Ibsen’s The Dolls House & other plays & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Motherland(2)2010(close-up)

Motherland (2), 2011

75 x 58 x 5cm
Text from various Barbara Cartland romantic novels published in the twentieth century by Pan & front cover from an edition of Ibsen's The Dolls House & other plays & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Motherland(3)2011

Motherland (3), 2011

69 x 55 x 5cm
Maps from Baedeker's Schweden, Norwegen – Die Reiserouten Durch Danemark nebst Island and Spitzbergen, published in Leipzig in 1914 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Motherland(3)2011(close-up)

Motherland (3), 2011

69 x 55 x 5cm
Maps from Baedeker's Schweden, Norwegen – Die Reiserouten Durch Danemark nebst Island and Spitzbergen, published in Leipzig in 1914 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Motherland(3)2011(detail2)

Motherland (3), 2011

69 x 55 x 5cm
Maps from Baedeker's Schweden, Norwegen – Die Reiserouten Durch Danemark nebst Island and Spitzbergen, published in Leipzig in 1914 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(1)2011

Only Child (1), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and image from Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm A new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, published by Freemantle & Co, circa 1900 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(1)2011(close-up)

Only Child (1), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and image from Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm A new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, published by Freemantle & Co, circa 1900 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(1)2011(detail1)

Only Child (1), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and image from Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm A new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, published by Freemantle & Co, circa 1900 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(1)2011(detail2)

Only Child (1), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and image from Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm A new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, published by Freemantle & Co, circa 1900 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(1)2011(detail3)

Only Child (1), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and image from Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm A new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, published by Freemantle & Co, circa 1900 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(1)2011(detail4)

Only Child (1), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and image from Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm A new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, published by Freemantle & Co, circa 1900 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(1)2011(detail5)

Only Child (1), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and image from Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm A new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, published by Freemantle & Co, circa 1900 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(2)2011

Only Child (2), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and endpapers & scribbled upon pages from All About Birdie Blue written and illustrated by John Hargrave, published circa 1900, When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne, illustrated by E. H. Shepard and Rhymes of Old Times illustrated by Margaret Tarrant published by the Medici Society, Boston, 1929 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(2)2011(close-up)

Only Child (2), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and endpapers & scribbled upon pages from All About Birdie Blue written and illustrated by John Hargrave, published circa 1900, When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne, illustrated by E. H. Shepard and Rhymes of Old Times illustrated by Margaret Tarrant published by the Medici Society, Boston, 1929 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(2)2011(detail1)

Only Child (2), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and endpapers & scribbled upon pages from All About Birdie Blue written and illustrated by John Hargrave, published circa 1900, When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne, illustrated by E. H. Shepard and Rhymes of Old Times illustrated by Margaret Tarrant published by the Medici Society, Boston, 1929 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(2)2011(detail2)

Only Child (2), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and endpapers & scribbled upon pages from All About Birdie Blue written and illustrated by John Hargrave, published circa 1900, When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne, illustrated by E. H. Shepard and Rhymes of Old Times illustrated by Margaret Tarrant published by the Medici Society, Boston, 1929 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(2)2011(detail3)

Only Child (2), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and endpapers & scribbled upon pages from All About Birdie Blue written and illustrated by John Hargrave, published circa 1900, When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne, illustrated by E. H. Shepard and Rhymes of Old Times illustrated by Margaret Tarrant published by the Medici Society, Boston, 1929 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Only_Child(2)2011(detail4)

Only Child (2), 2011

59 x 47 x 7 cm
Text from They F*** You Up. How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James published by Bloomsbury in 2003 and endpapers & scribbled upon pages from All About Birdie Blue written and illustrated by John Hargrave, published circa 1900, When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne, illustrated by E. H. Shepard and Rhymes of Old Times illustrated by Margaret Tarrant published by the Medici Society, Boston, 1929 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Child2011

Child, 2011

73 x 53 x 5 cm
Text from various romantic novels & children’s literature & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Child2011(detail)

Child, 2011

73 x 53 x 5 cm
Text from various romantic novels & children’s literature & acid-free glue

EllenBell_A_Short_Story_About_Love(1)2011

A Short Story: About Love (1), 2011

35 x 28 x 5 cm
Text from various 20th & 21st century publications of romantic novels and short stories & acid-free glue

EllenBell_A_Short_Story_About_Love(1)(detail)

A Short Story: About Love (1), 2011

35 x 28 x 5 cm
Text from various 20th & 21st century publications of romantic novels and short stories & acid-free glue

EllenBell_A_Short_Story_About_Love(2)2011

A Short Story: About Love (2), 2011

35 x 28 x 5 cm
Text from various 20th & 21st century publications of romantic novels and short stories & acid-free glue

EllenBell_A_Short_Story_About_Love(2)(detail1)

A Short Story: About Love (2), 2011

35 x 28 x 5 cm
Text from various 20th & 21st century publications of romantic novels and short stories & acid-free glue

EllenBell_A_Short_Story_About_Love(2)(detail2)

A Short Story: About Love (2), 2011

35 x 28 x 5 cm
Text from various 20th & 21st century publications of romantic novels and short stories & acid-free glue

EllenBell_A_Short_Story_About_Love(2)closer

A Short Story: About Love (2), 2011

35 x 28 x 5 cm
Text from various 20th & 21st century publications of romantic novels and short stories & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Household_Tales2011

Household Tales, 2011

73.5 x 53 x 5 cm
Text from Grimm’s Fairy Tales published by Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd., London 1920, Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. A new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, published by Freemantle & Co, London circa 1910 & Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm published by the Everyman Library, London, 1920 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Household_Tales2011(closer)

Household Tales, 2011

73.5 x 53 x 5 cm
Text from Grimm’s Fairy Tales published by Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd., London 1920, Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. A new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, published by Freemantle & Co, London circa 1910 & Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm published by the Everyman Library, London, 1920 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Household_Tales2011(detail1)

Household Tales, 2011

73.5 x 53 x 5 cm
Text from Grimm’s Fairy Tales published by Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd., London 1920, Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. A new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, published by Freemantle & Co, London circa 1910 & Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm published by the Everyman Library, London, 1920 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Household_Tales2011(detail2)

Household Tales, 2011

73.5 x 53 x 5 cm
Text from Grimm’s Fairy Tales published by Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd., London 1920, Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. A new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, published by Freemantle & Co, London circa 1910 & Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm published by the Everyman Library, London, 1920 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Household_Tales2011(detail3)

Household Tales, 2011

73.5 x 53 x 5 cm
Text from Grimm’s Fairy Tales published by Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd., London 1920, Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. A new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, published by Freemantle & Co, London circa 1910 & Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm published by the Everyman Library, London, 1920 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Lullaby2010

Lullaby, 2010

74 x 57 x 7cm
Text from Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language with Walker’s Pronunciation of all the difficult or doubtful words, published in 1839 & acid-free glue.

EllenBell_Lullaby2010(close-up)

Lullaby, 2010

74 x 57 x 7cm
Text from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language with Walker's Pronounciation of all the difficult or doubtful words, published in 1839 & acid-free glue.

EllenBell_Lullaby2010(detail%20of%20bride)

Lullaby, 2010

74 x 57 x 7cm
Text from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language with Walker's Pronounciation of all the difficult or doubtful words, published in 1839 & acid-free glue.

EllenBell_Lullaby2010(detail%20of%20groom)

Lullaby, 2010

74 x 57 x 7cm
Text from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language with Walker's Pronounciation of all the difficult or doubtful words, published in 1839 & acid-free glue.

EllenBell_Mummy(2)2011

Mummy (2), 2011

100 x 48 x 7cm
Text from Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language with Walker’s Pronunciation of all the difficult or doubtful words, Corral’s Diamond edition published in 1839 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Mummy(2)2011(close-up)

Mummy (2), 2011

100 x 48 x 7cm
Text from Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language with Walker’s Pronunciation of all the difficult or doubtful words, Corral’s Diamond edition published in 1839 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Mummy(2)2011(detail)

Mummy (2), 2011

100 x 48 x 7cm
Text from Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language with Walker’s Pronunciation of all the difficult or doubtful words, Corral’s Diamond edition published in 1839 & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Night_Murmurs(1)2010

Night Murmurs (1), 2011

103 x 84.5 x 5 cm
Text from various romantic novels & literature including Barbara Cartland & Mills & Boons publications & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Night_Murmurs(2)2010(detail)

Night Murmurs (2), 2011

103 x 84.5 x 5 cm
Text from various romantic novels & literature including Barbara Cartland & Mills & Boons publications & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Night_Murmurs(2)2011

Night Murmurs (2), 2011

103 x 84.5 x 5 cm
Text from various romantic novels & literature including Barbara Cartland & Mills & Boons publications & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Night_Murmurs(2)2011(detail1)

Night Murmurs (2), 2011

103 x 84.5 x 5 cm
Text from various romantic novels & literature including Barbara Cartland & Mills & Boons publications & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Night_Murmurs(2)2011(detail2)

Night Murmurs (2), 2011

103 x 84.5 x 5 cm
Text from various romantic novels & literature including Barbara Cartland & Mills & Boons publications & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Night_Murmurs(2)2011(detail3)

Night Murmurs (2), 2011

103 x 84.5 x 5 cm
Text from various romantic novels & literature including Barbara Cartland & Mills & Boons publications & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Night_Murmurs(3)2011

Night Murmurs (3), 2011

103 x 84.5 x 5 cm
Text from various romantic novels & literature including Barbara Cartland & Mills & Boons publications & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Night_Murmurs(3)2011(detail1)

Night Murmurs (3), 2011

103 x 84.5 x 5 cm
Text from various romantic novels & literature including Barbara Cartland & Mills & Boons publications & acid-free glue

EllenBell_Night_Murmurs(3)2011(detail2)

Night Murmurs (3), 2011

103 x 84.5 x 5 cm
Text from various romantic novels & literature including Barbara Cartland & Mills & Boons publications & acid-free glue