Craig Handley


August 20 - September 3 2016

Images of the landscape, be it rural, urban, suburban, have connotations for the artist whether we are aware of them or not. In scenes invested with symbolic twists and personal relevance, Craig Handley subtly communicates social, environmental and aesthetic considerations. In manifesting the anomalies, his works challenge habitual perceptions regarding our common environs.

Handley acknowledges that his former career in the animation industry has influenced his pictorial style. "My works have the frozen, unreal atmosphere of a stage or film set," he relates. "I like to muck around with scale change, conflicting perspectives and multiple light sources."

Narrative intrigue is engendered in the pervading stillness, dramatic illumination and the introduction of the unexpected into otherwise unremarkable tableaux. Handley never gives the full story away. Nothing is directly stated. "I like enigmatic and mysterious subject matter," says the Sydney-based artist. "My paintings aim for an uneasy mood - that slightly unsettling feeling when the familiar is tinged with the unknown. I try for questions not answers."

A Finalist in this year's Wynne Prize, AGNSW, the painting The Banker (or the King of Comedy) parodies the ‘great Australian dream' of home ownership as expression of success and security. Handley probes the contrary facets of securing a home of one's own: do we own it or does it own us? The banker sits nonchalantly observing the toils of a tiny figure attempting to fortify his crumbling abode. Already, the steps from its front door lead to an eroding cliff-face. The general ambience is surreal. Across the way a group of teenagers, oblivious to danger and impending worldly concerns, plummet into the ocean while high overhead birds wheel in freedom.

The paintings, Pattern Recognitions #1 and #2 reference an existent corner shop in the Botany Bay area. Vacant for years, its distinctive red-tiled frontage and mosaicked thresholds attracted Handley's attention for the pictorial opportunities they presented to express his love of pattern. Artistic licence has naturally been taken. Into the empty windows he has inserted objects of symbolic import: the kangaroo is an oblique reference to the plight of the indigenous peoples while the koala similarly registers environmental concerns. The blue signage alludes to his early signwriting days. Images of his own paintings are displayed along with a backdrop mimicking the patterns of the carpet in the psychological thriller, The Shining.

La La Land could epitomise the ubiquitous, rectangular houses that defined the onset of the post WWII suburban sprawl. The bland uniformity of those buildings is reflected in the morphing of identical premises into a single unit. The neglected trampoline questions the "worth of stuff" - that which is accumulated and then discarded. Perhaps the most disquieting aspect of this work constructed with essentially geometric shapes, is the strident palette: the vibratory orange and blue; pink and green. Even the dog seems immobilised, mid stance, by the cacophony of colour.

Away from urban congestion the mood of Greetings is less stifling, there's a whiff of cleansing salt in the air. Yet here too, a curious sense of alienation manifests, amplified by the unusual cropping of the subject. Those ‘out-of-focus' trees dominating the foreground loom in striking contrast to the defined rectilinearity of the beach shack. Blinds drawn, it stands in empty muteness before the relentlessly pounding waves.

Handley likens the reading of a painting's intricacies to that of reading musical notations. Some understanding of the ‘hieroglyphics' is required. However, he is reticent to be drawn on specific interpretations, preferring the viewer to respond to the ambiguity in the works. "I like the idea of prompting a direction for the viewer rather than giving definitive descriptions".

Inclusion into this year's Wynne Landscape Prize, AGNSW continues Craig Handley's remarkable success in being selected as a Finalist in a huge number of significant Art Awards which include: Percival Portrait Prize, Queensland 2016; Gallipoli Art Prize 2016, 2012; Noosa Art Award, Queensland 2016; Stanthorpe Art Prize, Queensland 2016, 2010; Calleen Art Prize, Cowra 2016, 2015 (highly commended), 2014, 2013; Paddington Art Prize, Sydney 2015, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006; Mosman Art Prize, Sydney 2015, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006; Eutick Memorial Still Life Award, Coffs Harbour NSW 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009;Salon Des Refuses, Sydney (finalist) 2015, selected 2014, 2011, 2008, 2007; Kogarah Art Prize (winner) 2015; Muswellbrook Art Prize 2015, 2013; Gold Coast City Art Prize 2014; Sulman Prize, AGNSW 2014; NSW Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize, Sydney 2014, 2013; Fleurieu Art Prize, SA 2013; North Sydney Art Prize, Sydney 2013, 2011; Mortimore Prize 2012; Lethbridge Art Prize, Queensland 2012, 2011; Whyalla Art Prize SA 2011; Black Swan Prize for Portraiture, Perth 2011; Redland Art Awards, Queensland 2010; Moran Portrait Prize 2010; Blake Prize (Director's Cut) 2009, 2008.




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