Craig Handley – The Trappings


The Trappings 2020, 2017, oil on linen, 112 × 122 cm Image courtesy the artist


Young Man South or the First Summer, 2017, oil on linen, 112 × 122 cm, Image courtesy the artist

I recently had the pleasure and privilege of writing about Craig Handley’s latest exhibition, The Trappings. If you know me at all you will know that I have been a long admirer of Handley’s pastel snapshots of Australian suburbia.

To me, his paintings effortlessly portray the many contradictions and iconic moments of suburban life. In Handley’s paintings, it is possible for a happy space to feel a little bittersweet, for a discarded piece of furniture to brim with potential, and for a sparkly new billboard to seem haggard and wan.

Craig Handley displayed The Trappings at Piermarq Gallery, Sydney. In case you missed it and are dying to see some of this pastel magic, Craig is currently on display as part of the 2017 Salon des Refusés exhibition at the fab S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney.


Funland 2017, 2017, oil on linen, 153 × 168 cm, image courtesy the artist


The Trappings 2018, 2017, oil on linen, 56 × 92 cm, Image courtesy the artist

Read the full commission below:

Craig Handley is a Sydney based artist renowned for his images of suburban Australian life that playfully challenge the nuance of narrative. Handley’s works are at once vibrant and subdued, busy and quiet, which is where their intrigue lies. Handley’s pieces depict a dichotomy between what is known and what is unknown, as well as what is normal and what is bizarre. The space between these places has come to be synonymous with his washed back pastel palette. Paired together these elements certify his status as a master storyteller through painting.

The iconic traits of Craig Handley’s works are clearly visible in his latest exhibition, The Trappings. In this collection the narrative focal point retains its ambiguity in a present and future context. Handley conveys this clearly in The Trappings 2018. Viewers see a house perched on a sandy beach with a couch placed outside and a set of stairs that stretch out beyond the confines of the canvas, leading to a place we cannot see. The stairs seem foreboding, however one cannot help but be curious as to where they might lead. Similarly, the ocean waves in the background are inviting as much as they are ominous. By skewing perspective in this way, Handley’s paintings successfully create a subtle and deceptive sense of mystery that crosses the borders of time.

The largest work in the series, Funland 2017 echoes The Trappings 2018 in symbolism and storytelling techniques. In this work Handley uses a flat washed back pastel palette to reveal part of a story whilst allowing viewers to decide which direction the story takes. In this piece the wall of an amusement park fill the foreground. The sheer scale of the wall is exaggerated by a small figure at the base of a ladder jutted against it. Glimpses of the rides and attractions sit closely behind the wall whilst aluminium balloons merge with large fluffy clouds set in the background. The effect of Handley’s flat perspective and imagery draws viewers into the piece and creates a sense of mystery. Viewers cannot help but wonder what the full picture is behind the wall: what can the birds see from their vantage point above? What awaits at the base of the slide in the paintings centre?

The Trappings cements Craig Handley’s ability to conjure the relationship between the present and the future in it’s beauty and uncertainty. Using his celebrated technique of revealing fragments of a tale through a washed out palette, The Trappings showcases Handley’s creative skill and unquestionable talent at recreating the world we live in with a dystopian twist. ♦


The Trappings Late 2017, the Rethink, 2017, oil on linen, 112 × 122 cm, image courtesy the artist

1 comment
  1. Ross Dalgleish said:

    Excellent writing claire and a very good insight into the artists work xxxx


    Liked by 1 person

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