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Permanent Recollections: Trevor Bell’s Rising Heat and Light Pillar

Published March 28, 2023

Written by Abby Perpich

Trevor Bell (1930–2017) was an abstract artist known for his bold colors and unique canvas shapes ranging from trapezoids and triangles to asymmetric circles and ovals. Born in Leeds, Bell moved to Cornwall in 1955 to join the many abstract artists who made their homes in St. Ives. Two years later in 1958, Waddington Galleries hosted Bell’s first solo exhibition. Bell was awarded the Paris Biennale International Painting Prize in 1958. In the 1960s, Bell took part in many major exhibitions in the UK and the US. By 1976, he was teaching painting in many locations before moving to Florida State University and becoming its Professor for Master Painting.

Photo: Trevor Bell, Rising Heat, 1982, Acrylic on Canvas, 186 x 86 inches

Bell’s twin paintings titled Rising Heat and Light Pillar are exemplary works that showcase his talent and style. Both paintings, created in 1982, have the same dimensions (186 in x 86 in), the same trapezoidal shape, and the same medium (acrylic on canvas). As for the compositions of each painting, Rising Heat is mostly bright yellow-orange with a large strip of pink flanked by gray-white in the center. The center strip is broad and imperfect, but the meandering edges give the appearance of the organic movement, like a flickering flame. Light Pillar, by contrast, is predominately blue with similar strips of color in the center, although these strips are thinner and gradient with individual strips changing from yellow to red, yellow to green to blue, and pink to purple to blue. The yellow-red strip in the center is the forefront of the piece, contrasting the darker, cooler colors that surround it. Like Rising Heat, the lines of the strips are uneven, causing the strips to seem like pillars of light shining down the canvas.

Photo: Trevor Bell, Light Pillar, 1982, Acrylic on Canvas, 186 x 86 inches

Bell’s art, including Rising Heat and Light Pillar, was heavily influenced by the rockets shot from Cape Canaveral. His first experience was with the nighttime launch of Apollo 17 on December 7th, 1972. Bell began to draw inspiration from this event, creating larger-than-life paintings of bold and radiating color with representations of both the pillars of fire from the rocket and the blueness of the dark night sky. This influence can primarily be seen in Light Pillar, where the yellow strip of light juxtaposes the calm blue background, much like the sight Bell saw that night of the bright rocket’s fumes against a starry sky. Rising Heat, while also taking inspiration from Cape Canaveral, is moreso inspired by what Bell called “the heatscape” of Florida, an idea is seen in a number of his paintings by brash and searing reds, oranges, and yellows. Rising Heat perfectly encapsulates this Floridian “heatscape” with its bright, eye-catching colors that mimic the heat of the Florida sun on a burning summer day.

Trevor Bell’s work not only shares his experiences but celebrates humanity’s joyful and awesome admiration for the mundane world we inhabit. His art draws upon his wonder and turns it into something tangible that all can experience. Trevor Bell’s artistic approach is best explained in his own words: “I feel that what we should get from art is a sense of wonder, of something beyond ourselves, that celebrates our being here. It condenses the experience we all have as human beings, and, by forming it, makes it significant. We all have an in-built need for harmony and the structures that create that harmony. Basically, art is an affirmation of life.”

About the author:

I’m Abby Perpich, a 20-year-old senior art history student here at Florida State University. I’ll be coming back to FSU this fall for graduate school in which I will be specializing in Medieval art and architecture. I enjoy learning about all sorts of art from prehistoric to contemporary, and outside of school I work at the Museum of Fine Arts on campus as one of its semester interns. At home, I enjoy playing video games with friends, cooking, and spending quality time with my cat.