Bell was drawn to St Ives, Cornwall as at that time it was the epicentre for British abstract art being the home to the St. Ives group of artists such as Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, and Terry Frost. From these artists, especially Nicholson, Bell received advice and help. Nicholson encouraged him to show in London and Waddington Galleries gave Bell his first solo exhibition in 1958. Patrick Heron wrote the introduction to the exhibition catalogue, stating that Bell was ‘the best non-figurative painter under thirty’.
The following year Bell was awarded the prize for painting at the Biennale de Paris. He stayed in St. Ives for five years constantly developing his technique and painting language but in 1960 was offered the Gregory Fellowship in Painting at the University of Leeds so he moved back to his hometown. It was during his time at the University of Leeds that Bell developed his shaped canvases, which set his work apart from other abstract artists of his generation.
In the 1960s Bell showed work in exhibitions in the UK and USA including a major touring exhibition covering the period of 1966 to 1970, organised by the Richard Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh, that travelled to Belfast and Sheffield. During this time his work was bought for the Tate collection.
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Chris Stephens, Trevor Bell, Sanson & Company, ISBN 978-1-904537-88-5