Martin Bell <em>Worthless priceless, priceless worthless, everything nothing, nothing everything, no thing a thing, a thing no thing, A</em> 2019–22 (detail); pen, ink, paper. Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2022<br/>
© Martin Bell

Martin Bell

Martin Bell
(b. 1978, Melbourne. Lives and works in Central Western Victoria)

Martin Bell is an artist working across drawing, collage, printmaking, photography and sculpture. Rich with the nostalgic imagery of a childhood spent in the 1980s, his recent multi-sheet pen-and-ink drawings explore a growing interest in imaginative play and its capacity to establish connections between disparate people and things.

Created between 2019 and 2022, Worthless… comprises 75 drawings on paper depicting all manner of subjects, from studio-rendered and Renaissance-style figures to furniture, buildings, toys, machinery and plein-air landscapes. A layering of constraints – from chicken wire and wicker baskets to rope and repeating patterns – creates space, depth and a heightened sense of anxiety recalling that of Victoria’s strict COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. Worthless… is also the first of Bell’s large-scale drawings to incorporate text, with references to Jungian archetypes and Marshall McLuhan’s ‘extensions of man’ weaved throughout, adding to the work’s inherent playfulness and absurdity.

Bell completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2000. He has exhibited all over Australia, including at the Australian Print Workshop, Tolarno Galleries and Hell Gallery, Melbourne; the Australian Centre for Photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; and in association with the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. He has also released numerous publications, including the books My Birthday Party (2007) and Martin Bell from the Fourth Dimension (2010). He is represented by Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne.