Michael James Bell AKA Bael‘s paintings are primal and atavistic. His Greek mythological figures such as Narcissus, Midas and Eros are intense and frightening yet one can only feel pity for them in their existential angst. Here is a young artist going back to German Expressionism to find a way to explore the themes of sexuality, decadence and mortality.
As he says himself about the work:
the arts of the Rococo period fetishized Greek Myths. The ancient stories were transformed into a form of visual confectionary for the gilded palaces of the Royal Court in 18th century Europe. I have taken these same myths and re-imagined them in my own style, dispensing with polite beauty they were once given, instead casting them in a raw and much darker vein
His figures are barely human, harshly delineated in charcoal and given colour, depth with acrylic paint. There is nothing to distract the viewer from these asexual bodies. Infact it’s hard to tell whether they’re human at all as he’s chosen to paint them without any real sense of individuality – these are pictures that appeal to the collective of humanity:
I have tried to paint the human form without indications of sex, age or race; I hope that by stripping away anything that insinuates a specific ‘individual’ this allows people to see the figures in terms of emotion and atmosphere. Often people ask me ‘who are the figures in your paintings?’ and my answer is ‘everyone’.
From what I’ve read about Bell he is highly committed to his own development as an artist outside the conventions of the arts world. His ambivalence to arts institutions – partly due to his disillusionment with art college – has led him to create work that is raw and highly individual:
The way I paint has been a process of development for some time, but this development has been away from the outside world. People have only recently encountered my work and it has emerged (seemingly) fully formed with a strong style and identity. I have always felt that the strength of any artist is in their individuality of expression, so I have worked hard to try and make my work as true to my own vision as possible.