Proppa Now Collective, Qld
Private Collection, Qld
Born in 1953, Richard Bell spent his early childhood living in a tent, then a corrugated tin shack on an Aboriginal reserve until he was 14. He witnessed firsthand the mistreatment of Aboriginal people when his home was bulldozed by the government. He became involved in the Aboriginal Rights Movement in the 1970s before working for the New South Wales Aboriginal Legal Service. He began painting at 34 as a way to earn money by making souvenirs for tourists.
Bell came to national attention after his painting Scientia E Metaphysica (Bell’s Theorem) won the 2003 Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. It prominently featured the text “Aboriginal Art – It’s A White Thing”.
In 2009, his introductory North American exhibition, Richard Bell: I Am Not Sorry, showcased in New York. Bell plays with the appropriation of abstract expressionism and pop art styles of painters like Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol. The text that accompanies each piece is what generally challenges the viewer. Bell is brutally honest in exposing Australia’s racism towards Aboriginal people, endemic white privilege, negative stereotyping, and exoticising of the “other”.Share