There is something beautiful and haunting about Bael’s work, and his treatment of the human form. With this interview we get to delve a little further into the life and journey of the artist behind this most recognisable style.
Please tell us a bit about yourself, and the journey you took to become an artist.
My name is Michael Bell, I am a 35 year old artist from the North East and I work under the alias 'Bael'.
I was extremely shy as a child, so drawing was my escape. The praise I received started my love of art and my determination to create.
After I left school at 16, I briefly attended Art College for 2 years. I never finished the courses I attended and never progressed to university. I was disappointed with art college, because they did not teach even basic techniques of drawing or painting. So I believe that my style is a direct result of teaching myself.
What helped you to get to where you are today? Are there any people, events, or experiences that encouraged you or influenced you to do what it is that you do?
Chris Garlick and Dale Grimshaw, who ran Signal Gallery in Shoreditch, took me on when I was a completely unknown artist. They saw something in my work that they believed in. My first exhibited piece with them ‘Cast’ was part of a group show. It gained a lot of interest and sold on the first day of the exhibition. After that they gave me three solo exhibitions, and featured my work in various group shows in the four years I was represented by them.
Chris and Dale were very supportive and I owe a lot of gratitude for what they did for me.
What was the first piece of art that moved you? What was it about it that grabbed you?
Nicolas Régnier’s painting ‘Saint Sebastian tended by the Holy Irene and her Servant’, which hangs in the Ferens Museum, was the painting that made me really appreciate the power of art, and is still my favourite painting to this day. It has a stillness and melancholic beauty that I love and try to instill in my own work.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Any tips for fellow artists who are having a bit of a dry spell?
My earliest and most long lasting influences stem from the art forms that I was first exposed to as a child, this ranged from Comic Books, Anime and Art Nouveau. As a result, the subjects in my work often have dynamic and exaggerated poses. They exist in large amounts of negative space to extenuate the tension and emotion. My aim is always to create an image that deals with how we subconsciously convey emotional states through the language of our bodies.
Where do you work best from? Do you have any habits, or a routine, that help you harness your creativity?
I have a studio space in my garden, so I have a place of solitude to work from. The only consistent habit I have for getting into a state of mind to create is to listen to music without any lyrics or vocals. Atmospheric film soundtracks are my preferred playlist.
What is your current favourite piece in your own body of work? Why does it hold a special place in your heart?
My favourite piece of my own work is SHE STUDY Z22. I feel that it is the best example of my style as an artist. When I look at this piece I think that I’ve taken my influences and obsessions and channeled them into something that is unique to me.
What was the latest piece of art that you bought yourself? If you could choose four pieces of work from the Artsnug collection, what would they be?
The latest piece of art that I acquired was the Cyanotype ‘Falling’ by the artist Craig Keenan.
As from the artsnug collection, I would choose a “Marlene Dietrich #7” by Rosie Emerson, “Stepping Back” by Carne Griffiths, “Pink Light” by Andrew J Millar and “Naturalia Tavola IV” by Alice Serafino.