Meet Gelbell, The Best Friends Creating Colourful + Chaotic Abstract Paintings — Together!
Bella Greene and Gel Wootton are the self-taught painters behind Gelbell.
When the pandemic hit, the high school friends were travelling overseas and were forced to cut their holiday short to return home. Little did they know they’d find a silver lining in the next two weeks of mandatory isolation, when they decided to paint together.
‘We used some random art supplies we found at the house we were quarantining in — some smallish canvases we joined together and acrylic paints,’ Bella says.
‘We were looking for things to do and also had no money from travelling,’ Gel adds. ‘It was Bella’s sister’s birthday, so we thought we’d make her something. It was an abstract piece, us just messing around with different techniques and both of us basically working on top of each other like we still do.’
It was different to any kind of creative work they had done in the past. Bella has a background in furniture design, while Gel studied interior design, and they fell into a natural rhythm of painting around each other. Bella says they often work on same piece at the same time and sometimes trade places between two canvases, each one adding layers of acrylic paint, or scribbles from paint pens and oil pastels onto what the other has started.
But there are no set roles for who does what. ‘We often try to describe it to people that [we’re] almost like one brain with four arms,’ Gel explains. ‘We couldn’t do it by ourselves, we do this because we love it and we are inspired by working and problem solving together.’
‘Every painting is different but we always know it’s finished when we both simultaneously excitedly react and are moved by a piece,’ Bella adds.
This telepathic-style approach means their process is equal parts chaotic, spontaneous, and exciting, which leads to some effortlessly cool paintings.
Bold colour-block backgrounds often feature Gelbell’s signature character, which the friends call ‘satirical abstract figures’. It’s a misshapen feminine form wearing oversized cowboy hats and boots — reminiscent of an exaggerated fashion design sketch of epic proportions.
It helps that they have a pretty epic studio to work from. After continuing to work from home during lockdowns, Bella and Gel moved their now full-time practice into a heritage-listed building in South Melbourne with soaring ceilings and beautiful arched windows.
In just a few years, Gelbell have held successful exhibitions and developed a cult-social media following for their distinctive, neon paintings. And they’re already dreaming of their next big thing.
‘Knowing our paintings are hanging on walls all around the world is very cool to us,’ Bella says. ‘We can’t wait to have solo exhibitions internationally.’