Whether it's adding stripes to a tiger or plucking petals from human-sized flowers, Toni Hamel dreams up uncanny scenarios and brings them to life in her realistic paintings. The Canada-based artist combines her observations of the world with her own personal experiences to create understated compositions with a humorous undertone.
Hamel approaches each new work with a realistic style that appears to place these whimsical narratives on a stage with a “painted on” backdrop. Her calm-faced figures look at ease with what is happening around them and with what they're doing themselves—regardless of how improbable it may be. Sometimes, she merges two distinct worlds, such as cartoons and real-life or art history and surreal figures. Field & Stream I, for instance, depicts a hunter aiming his rifle at Tweety bird, the iconic cartoon character. “All of my work (whether series of stand-alone pieces) share the same conceptual underpinning which is political in nature,” Hamel explains to My Modern Met.
“I refer to my work as ‘an illustrated commentary on human frailties,'” she continues. “My intention is to expose certain realities and/or aspects of human behavior that I find to be at least peculiar if not totally absurd. These may pertain to our attitude toward either the natural environment (more often than not), the self, or other beings. Pointing to historical references, popular culture, and our current thinking models, I create satirical narratives that try to alert us about the repercussions of our behavior.”
Even when the stories of these paintings seem outlandish, the muted atmosphere of the canvases cements the events in a space where it feels okay to suspend our disbelief and dig into the hidden meanings.
Scroll down to see more conceptual paintings by Hamel, and follow the artist on Instagram to keep up to date with her latest projects.