The Melbourne artist had been focusing on portrait work before lockdowns forced her to look for inspiration a little closer to home. Stuck inside, ‘common and ordinary’ became her new subjects – playing around with ‘hilarious’ pairings like a raspberry balanced above a toothbrush, or colourful building blocks inside a wine glass.
‘I turned to making still life purely because it was practical,’ Shelley says. ‘I could make pictures from home that satisfied my creative impulses. But making work in this way has really taken a hold on me, in a way I never expected.’
The series showcases functional things alongside everyday rubbish, like a champagne cork, or ribbon from a birthday present. She poked around in the fridge or under the bathroom sink to look for something fun or weird, challenging herself to conjure up arrangements that would make for a surprising picture.
It was a ‘fairly messy and chaotic practice’ filled with experimentation. Some of the pictures are the result of eight or more hours of arranging and rearranging, and that was before Shelley even begun her rigorous process of retouching, test printing, more reworking, re-printing and framing!
‘I’ve photographed a lot of things that might normally be overlooked,’ Shelley adds. ‘I get a real kick from making ordinary things look precious. But there’s also a harmony between the colours and textures. There’s a whole new meaning that comes out of this very simple arrangement.’
The works are beautifully vibrant and eye-catching at first glance, but their intimate detail and familiarity also encourages viewers to stop and think – hopefully, Shelley says, with a smile on their face.
‘I’d love people to feel delighted, surprised, confused and curious. I get a lot of joy from making work, and I hope this joyfulness comes across.’
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