One of the things I loved about studying art history in college was learning the backstories and narratives behind works that seem, on the surface, simply decorative. Throughout the history of art, still lifes have been used to convey deeper meaning through the symbolism of the objects they portray. In her Peek series, Chicago artist Claudia Smalley looks past the narrative to distill the still life into its simplest values– color, shape and light.
Smalley successfully interprets what some might consider a mundane subject ( not me, though! ) into exciting, contemporary abstract interpretations full of movement and texture.
She captures the essence of the genre in terms of composition ( what every art student studies still lifes for! ) and that glorious chiaroscuro employed by masters of the staged vignettes. Her canvases move and glow with the same delicate rhythm.
While I was in painting studio in college, I remember my favorite instructor telling us to squint in order to see how strong our light and composition was. Smalley’s Peeks extracts the strongest elements of detailed compositions and redefines them in an equally elegant, though much more modern way.
To see more of Claudia Smalley’s interpretational work, please visit her website.
Featured image is Still Life 2, oil on canvas, 36×24. All images are via the artist’s website.