the work

    Bell's inspiration comes from the shapes and patterns we see emerging from the social interaction of animals and humans and forces of nature - the dynamically changing shapes that can be seen as the result of different creatures, or physical and chemical processes responding to their circumstances according to their personal and particular motivations.    

"Every time we make a decision we choose a path from a wide range of possibilities. As we follow our path so it interacts with those of others. Imagine the shapes we would see if the paths we followed were made visible." (Bell 9/10/08 Statement for Beesworld exhibition)


The majority of Stephen Bell's work has been created using computer graphics programs that follow rules based upon his interpretation of what might govern these complex interactive behaviours. The resulting shapes and patterns can look like those seen in trees, plants, flocks, herds and crowds and of human and animal settlements, or apparently random distributions of objects like fallen leaves and seeds.

    "I find it disturbing yet intriguing that the forms, patterns, shapes and compositions that we see in nature and that move us aesthetically are more often than not the result of some form of conflict or competition for resources. Birds in flocks are seeking resources, animals form herds for protection, the shape of plants is often the result of a competition for resources like sunlight and competition for ground territory. There are patterns and shapes of human behaviour that we find moving yet how many of them are the result of competition and conflict? What does it mean that there might be an aesthetics of conflict? How might potential aesthetic results be determining our decisions in social interactions?. Do we make decisions because they will have an aesthetic effect? By making work that helps us to understand and appreciate the hidden aesthetics of social interaction it may be possible that we can gain an insight into decisions, events and behaviours that we otherwise find inexplicable." (2017)    

"In parallel with making computer graphics by writing programs I have continued to use more established mediums. For many years I gave the computer programming aspect of my practice the most attention because I wanted to explore the viability of computer technology to make art and to promote what I might discover. It is now the case that in most circles computer technology has to a greater or lesser extent proved its value as a means of creating work that may be engaged with in a similar way to that in which we engage with art made using other technologies. I have kept some parts of my practice fairly open and others have been obscured by my desire to prioritise revealing and sharing the systematic processes that I have developed for generating images. These have been based on the interactive behaviour of organisms like herd animals, predators, insects, people and plants. I am now reflecting more on what it is in the patterns that I have chosen to create that moves me aesthetically and, as much as it is possible, to speculate why I find them so engrossing that I have spent so long exploring them. Thus it is that I have decided to reveal a bit more of what I have been doing behind the scenes, so to speak, in the hope that by sharing it I may get feedback that helps me to make sense of it all. Which is what at root I feel it is all about. As I said recently when speaking about using computing it is another means through which using art to contribute to the age old question that must have ben shared with humans since they first began to exist, i.e. What am I? And what is going on?

As part of this life long attempt to get hints at some sort of answer (forty-two notwithstanding) I have made studies using drawing, painting, photography, etc. That as well as my programmed works have been part of exploring the aesthetic that drives me. By making it visible perhaps identifiable patterns may emerge and provide some clues to help navigate and come to terms with conscious and ephemeral existence." (2018)