For the last decade or so, Shelley Hocknell Zentner (a British artist currently living in the US) has successfully combined two of her passions in life: rock climbing and painting the human figure.
As you can see below, her paintings of climbers are rough, gritty, and very physical; exuding an almost palpable feeling of power and strength.
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Using oils, ink, charcoal, and various other mediums, much of Shelley’s climbing art relies on line and gesture to fill the space and set the tone of the painting—it’s a rather “abstract expressionist” approach for a figurative painter, and as a result, it makes for some very interesting pieces.
Since 2005, Shelley has been branching out into other subjects, too, but the physicality of the paint and that aura of strength can still be found in many of her paintings.
For instance, even while depicting such a mundane task as brushing teeth, Shelley’s dramatic style comes to the fore.
By using an intense backlight and placing her subjects face-to-face, the mood immediately intensifies—and both figures, with such strong, settled stances are obviously ready to handle anything that comes their way. . . even if it’s just maintaining exemplary dental hygiene.
But that’s the beauty of art, isn’t it? Anything, even the simplest action perceived by the artist, can be transformed into an expression or metaphor that has much greater meaning than the act itself.
Of course, sometimes a painting is just a painting, and in that case what makes it special is seeing the artist’s style come through.
Strong brush strokes, earthy colors, and a good dose of visual energy are what mark this painting as one of Shelley’s own.
Well, that and the signature in the corner, of course.