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Shelley Horan Reimagines Household Junk In A Brilliant Still-Life Exhibition

Creative People

The slow pace of the pandemic pushed Melbourne photographer Shelley Horan towards making still life images, purely out of ‘practicality’.

She quickly found inspiration lying around the house and started combining ‘fun’ or ‘weird’ objects from her bathroom and kitchen in absurd and arty arrangements.

Two years later, these chaotic and colourful creative impulses have culminated in a vibrant exhibition called Compositions, which is on now at Melbourne gallery Modern Times!

28th October, 2022

Shelley Horan with her new work! Photo – Shelley Horan

Composition #11 (Less Is Moiré) With Paperweight and Allen’s Mintie by Shelley Horan. Photo – Shelley Horan

Composition #31 (IYKYK) With Ikea Bag, Building Block and Cigarette Lighter by Shelley Horan. Photo – Shelley Horan

Composition #20 (Tennessee Trash; White Stripe) With Screwdriver, Tomato Sauce and Milk Bottle by Shelley Horan. Photo – Shelley Horan

Left: Composition #31 (IYKYK) With Ikea Bag, Building Block and Cigarette Lighter. Right: Composition #3 (Date Night) With Petroleum Jelly, Menthol Throat Lozenges, Remote Control, Two-Minute Noodles, Earring, Ping Pong Ball, Disposable Razor, Kumquat and Bobby Pin by Shelley Horan. Photo – Shelley Horan

Composition #21 (Subtitle Pending) With Felt Pen, Two Vitamin D Liquid Capsules, Snap Frozen Broccoli, Airpod Pro and Unboxed Saladas by Shelley Horan. Photo – Shelley Horan

Composition #3 (Date Night) With Petroleum Jelly, Menthol Throat Lozenges, Remote Control, Two-Minute Noodles, Earring, Ping Pong Ball, Disposable Razor, Kumquat and Bobby Pin by Shelley Horan. Photo – Shelley Horan

Composition #25 (No Soup For You) With Sugar Bowl, Cake Knife, Flood Lamp, Esteé Lauder Travel Perfume, Dinner Plate, Crystal Platter, Tea Cups, Vase, Glass Buttons, Ladles And Butter Dish by Shelley Horan. Photo – Shelley Horan

Composition #24 (Don’t Worry, I’ve Got A System) With Ballpoint Pen, Toothbrush, Box of Matches, Table Salt, Marble, Ping Pong Ball, Saucer, Playing Card and Dead Bee by Shelley Horan. Photo – Shelley Horan

Christina Karras
Friday 28th October 2022

Chaotic, colourful and creative are the best words to describe Shelley Horan’s latest photography series, Compositions.

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.’

See Compositions at Modern Times from Thursday October 27 until Tuesday November 8. View the catalogue here.

Modern Times
311 Smith Street
Fitzroy, VIC

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net