Laura Bell

Laura Bell

Work from The Alba Series.

“Bell’s absorption in her adopted country’s rich history is palpable in her work; the series reads as a celebration and perhaps even romanticization of a country with a much older past than her own homeland, with its own distinct sense of mythology and magic—something that could be perceived as lacking within American culture.

Her attraction to the ancient roots of Scotland is at the forefront of her photographs, as is a simultaneous sense of remove—Bell seems to view (and subsequently present) the country as deeply mysterious, perhaps unknowable to outsiders, with stark, static and impenetrable photographs of a craggy moonlit hilltop, or a misty, rather ominous forest at dusk.

It warrants consideration that the two aforementioned (and above-pictured) photographs have both been cropped into an oval and a circle, respectively. This serves as a further nod to the Old Master painting that Bell cites as inspiration, in their formal mimicry of tondo pieces, which date back to ancient Greece, but are perhaps best known for their Renaissance revival.

Mood-wise, though, these two images for me recall the allegorical landscapes of 19th century German Romantic painters (such as Caspar David Friedrich). Here, too, Bell’s landscapes take on a heightened meaning, a deep sense of symbolism and subsequently imply the dwarfing of petty human concerns.

Each of Bell’s photographs is meticulously composed and highly formal, with a striking contrast between light and shadow. There is an overwhelming feeling of stillness in her work—each piece seems to exist outside of time, and conveys a sense of the ancient, the magical, the otherworldly. This is true too of her interiors—I never imagined that a photograph of a just-extinguished candle, (complete with dissipating smoke) could appear so static, so serene, so eerily devoid of any discernible human presence.

Bell’s work continually exhibits a serious influence of and affinity to the medium of painting – at times it rather unexpectedly resembles painting more closely than it does photography. And just as Romantic artists, poets and composers often looked to Middle Ages for inspiration, and Renaissance artists looked to Antiquity, here too we see an artist looking backwards, mining cultural production from long ago in an attempt to say something new. More of Bell’s work can be seen on her website.” – Hey Hot Shot

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