Ellen Bell
Ellen Bell
Ellen Bell


The nature of language, and, in particular, its limitations as a method of expressing deep and difficult feelings, informs much of my work. I work directly with books, texts and paper ephemera to create drawings, installations and sculptures that pose questions rather than deliver answers about how we communicate within our familial and intimate relationships. There is an intensity to the work – more akin to writing than drawing – involving a painstaking re-piecing together of texts that offer alternative meanings, narratives and contexts that question the role of language within emotive scenarios. The physicality of the books, the printed surface of the page and the design of the texts play an important role in the making of my work, as does the serendipity involved in the ‘finding’ of them – the musty smell, the grainy texture of the paper, the inconsistent heaviness of some of the type and the dated graphics of the book covers all play their part in seducing me into working with them.

My work is pared down, seemingly simple. Some pieces involve a re-making of dictionary pages, where I focus on a particular word and expand upon its general definition by creating a stream of consciousness narrative that challenges the limitations of its given understanding. Other works feature figurative templates that contain text or other ephemera, such as stamps or fragments of book or magazine illustrations, through which memories are triggered or associations made. However, as with all drawings, the negative space plays an essential part in the understanding and reading of the pieces. The words and images in these pieces are animated, three-dimensional; they either jut off the page - casting rows of sharp, urgent tick-like shadows - or they undulate, forming an active, physical representation of speech, becoming tangible artefacts of intimate conversations.


Ellen Bell is an artist based in Wales. Her drawings, installations and sculptures are informed by ideas surrounding intimate communication through the written and spoken word. Bell interacts with found books, paper texts and other ephemera making three-dimensional narrative pieces that seek to subtly challenge our understanding of what is, and is not, possible when using language to communicate complex feelings.

Bell's work has been shown in many solo and group exhibitions and has featured in various notable national and international art fairs such as COLLECT at the Victoria & Albert Museum and SOFA in Chicago. Bell also produces site-specific work for public art projects, including her critically acclaimed installation piece, Speaking Soul, at the City Gallery in Leicester in 2007. In 2002 the Victoria & Albert Museum purchased a piece for their print collection.

In September 2013, Bell is due to begin an MA in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University. Since 2002, Bell has been a visiting artist and lecturer at various art schools and colleges across the UK.

Bell is represented by Four Square Fine Arts – www.foursquarearts.co.uk

Curriculum Vitae


solo exhibitions/residencies

Oubliette – Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown
MORDANT - Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown
Billet Doux - Library Project at various venues in England & Wales
2011 Camera Obscura & Other Stories – The Gallery on Redchurch Street,
London hosted by Four Square Fine Arts
Story – The Plinth Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery
Talk to Me – The Chapel Row Galley, Bath
Hard Words – The Air Gallery, London, hosted by Four Square Fine Arts
Speaking Soul – The City Gallery, Leicester
Woman’s Realm – The Women’s Library, London
Texting – The Charlotte Street Gallery, London
2002 Body Language – The Charlotte Street Gallery, London

selected group exhibitions

2015 Call Me - Gallery on the Green (telephone box), Settle - collaborative project with Jo Hamill
2014 Surface & Depth - Strand Gallery, London - hosted by Four Square Fine Arts
2014 Beyond the Book - Long & Ryle, London
2014 Beyond the Book - Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Bovey Tracey
2012 Genius Loci: A Sense of Place – Gallery at 32 Store St. London hosted by Four Square Fine Arts
2012 Only Connect Lab – performance, Aberystwyth Arts Centre
2011 Artists of Fame & Promise – Beaux Arts, Bath
2011 Beyond Text: Making & Unmaking Text – Centre for Creative Collaboration,
Royal Holloway University
2010 Lingua Franca – Arnolfini, Bristol
2009 Pulp Fictions – Rochester Gallery, Kent
2008 Romance – Kowalsky Gallery, London
2007 READesign – Mobile design installation, Northumberland
2006 Prints Now: Directions and Definitions – Victoria & Albert Museum
2006 Fairytales and Urban Myths – Sheffield Millennium Galleries, Sheffield
2005 Paperworks 2005 – b. j. spoke gallery, New York
2005 Body Languages: Four Women, Four Visions – Art Vitam Gallery, Miami
2005 Made at Wysing – Wysing Arts Gallery, Cambridgeshire
2004 SOFA 04 – Chicago, USA
2004 SALTHOUSE 04: Crossing the Line – Salthouse Church, Norfolk
2004 Hats & Gloves – The City Gallery, Leicester
2004 Haunt – Sherborne House, Dorset
2004 Art, Age & Gender: Women Explore the Issues – Usher Gallery, Lincoln
2004 COLLECT 2004 – Victoria & Albert Museum, London
2003 Sartorial: an exhibition of conceptual clothing, art & fashion – England & Co., London
2002 Art, Age & Gender: Women Explore the Issues – Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham
2001 Body Beautiful – 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe


2017 Funding from Arts Council, Wales for Oubliette project
2015 Funding from Arts Council, Wales for Mordant project
2015 Funding from Teeside University Research Fund for Call Me project
2013 Funding from Arts Council, Wales for Billet Doux project
2012 Bursary from Aberystwyth Arts Centre for participation in Only Connect Lab
2010 Commission from Container Arts, Bristol for the Plinth Project
2007 Funding from Arts Council, England for Speaking Soul project
Funding from SE Northumberland Public Art and Design Initiative for READesign project
2005 Prize-winner for Paperworks 2005 – an international juried competition, judged by Faye Hirsch, editor of Art in America
2004 Funding from Arts Council, England for SALTHOUSE 04: Crossing the Line
2004 RAE Funding from Anglia Ruskin University for Haunt project


  Victoria & Albert Museum, London
  Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge
  Private Collections – USA, UK, Switzerland, Australia


2010 Playing with Books: Up-cycling, Deconstructing and Re-imagining the book,
published by Rockport Publishing
2009 Paper: Tear, Fold, Rip, Crease, Cut, published by Black Dog Publishing
2006 Prints Now: Directions and Definitions, Saunders, G., Miles, R., published by V & A
2011 Camera Obscura & Other Stories, published by Four Square Fine Arts
2008 Hard Words, published by Four Square Fine Arts
2007 Speaking Soul, published by City Gallery, Leicester
2002 Body Language, published by The Rebecca Hossack Gallery
2011 Writing Intimacy by Abigail Norris
2008 Hard Words by Bus Stop Films
  selected reviews
2014 Crafts April/May
2013 Meaning of Text as Image by Esther Dudley (International Journal of Visual Design, Volume 6)
2011 Studio International, June
  Art Selector, June
2010 Embroidery, Vol. 61 May/June
2008 Big Picture Feature, a-n magazine, October 2008
2007 Embroidery, Vol. 58 July/August
  Guardian Guide, 20.1.2007
  The Independent Review, 20.1.2007
2006 Yorkshire Metro, 24.2.2006
2005 New York Times, Art Review, 4.9.2005
2004 Textile Forum Journal 2/2004
2003 Embroidery vol. 54
2003 Crafts May/June


2014 MA in Creative Writing Aberystwyth University (Distinction)
2006 PGCE in post-compulsory education Oxford Brookes University
2001 MA Fine Art Norwich School of Art & Design
1994 BA (Hons) Communication Design: Illustration Manchester Metropolitan University
1981 BA (Hons) Theatre Design Wimbledon School of Art

teaching posts

2008-09 Part-time Lecturer School of Art Swindon College, Wiltshire
2006-08 Pathway Leader 3D Design Truro College, Cornwall
2002-04 Associate Lecturer School of Art Anglia Ruskin University
1997 Part-time Lecturer School of Art City College, Manchester

selected workshops/residencies/talks

2017 Mentored artists from Oriel Davies’ Drawing Room seed programme
2017 Making Stories, Oriel Davies (Creative Writing workshop)
2017 The Drawing Room, Oriel Davies & NPTC (Art & Design workshops)
2016 Altered Books, Arts Care (Book Arts workshops)
2011 Book Arts Masterclass, the Gallery at Redchurch Street, London (master class workshop)
2011 London College of Printing, BA Hons Book Arts (talk)
2011 Plymouth University School of Art, BA Hons Graphics (talk)
2010 Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (talk)
2010 Sandbach High School for Girls (residency)
2007 City Gallery, Leicester (workshop)

membership of professional societies

2011 AIR Council member  
2011 ALCS  
1999 Design & Artist's Copyright Society