The Potter Roger Bell - Sculptor

“I don’t draw very well, and I was not particularly good at throwing clay – nor, if I’m honest, particularly interested. I admire the more conventional skills of others, of course, but I have always felt attracted to underlying form and structure in different, sometimes quite idiosyncratic, ways.”

Roger Bell found throwing predictable and repetitive, at least for him. It was hand building which freed him to create the shapes which intrigued and stimulated him. These are shapes which are not figurative, but often geometric, searching for the deep structure and texture which is rooted in natural constructs.

Roger was inspired by those artists who carved into a block, or abstracted the real into its component squares, rectangles and interconnecting surfaces, or took elements of decay, or waste, or destruction and created from them something often sad or harsh, yet beautiful.

There is a balance to his work which reflects a particular way of perceiving the world and of representing it. He is seeking what he calls a sense of “edge”, which implies what lies beyond words, sometimes disturbing, yet capturing form and elegance even with the roughest and most weathered material.

Roger’s work is a blend of shaped clay with found material – old wood, rusted metal mesh, curves of dogwood. He seeks to set them to work visually alongside each other, complementing and contrasting so that it seems to develop layers of meaning. His work is not romantically beautiful, but does represent a very personal and insightful response to natural objects.

So how does it happen? It starts, and probably ends, with instinct, but an instinct born of a lifetime of appreciating, making, studying and marketing art. Roger will find things and keep them and, more often than not, their time will come. He places objects in juxtaposition with each other until they create a visual image that speaks without and beyond language. If a piece of work “comes off” he knows it because his core language is visual rather than verbal. It is there in the way he speaks about his work;

“I leave what I can’t finish”

“I find something and I know that I am going to use it, though I don’t know how or when.”

“It is never finished until it is finished, until that moment when I look at it and say ‘It is finished’”.

And so he is operating on instinct, but with a core frame of reference. He sees, and responds to, the rectangles and squares, and places them together with curves or surprising bits of detritus. A piece of rusty wire can grow out of a curved block of shaped clay or wood. The pieces reflect the primitive, the prehistoric and the elemental. He finds pieces, ponders on them, looks, leaves, sets against others, leaves again, gradually forming a sense of what it might become. His work is liminal, operating at the borders of the conscious and the unconscious. If he sells his work, it is a kind of validation; but if he doesn’t sell – yet – he retains his own sense of completion and value.