Bhaval Shah Bell creates vivid paintings to honor the places she calls home, which have included Kenya, Great Britain, and Washington, D.C. The artist behind the Cartoloji series uses geography and topography to craft modern abstract images of cities, states, countries, and continents. Her work, available as original canvas paintings, prints, and pillows, appeals to a contemporary aesthetic that appreciates the value of location.
Bhaval shared some insights into her art as part of the Foundary’s Event featuring her Cartoloji prints and pillows.
You hold a Ph.D from Cambridge and a post doctorate degree from Yale. What were your concentrations?
I studied Neuroscience, specifically, molecular mechanisms of pain.
When did you start painting your Cartoloji series?
I have been painting maps for years as a hobby. I started the Cartoloji series in November, 2011.
What kind of paint do you use for your original works on canvas?
I paint with acrylics. I really love painting large canvases up to six feet but have had to scale down to be able to fit in people’s homes!
Do you sell your original works?
Yes, I paint about 10 original commissions a year.
Where are your pillows and prints made?
The fabric is printed digitally on organic cotton at a printing facility in North Carolina and the pillows are stitched in Virginia. I print the paper prints on an archival grade Epson printer in my studio in Maryland.
Do you think geography reveals something about the character of a place?
Absolutely. I love exploring elevation of states that can really bring out the character. For my city series I pay particular attention to the city limits (always in orange), parks within the city (in blue) and rivers and other water bodies (in brown). In these colors I love how some cities end up looking like trees in the fall.
Where are your favorite places?
I grew up in Kenya which is extremely beautiful. I also loved Cambridge, UK, where I lived for five years.