Charlotte Handy operates in the realm between memory and invention, where uncertainty is valued and possibility allowed.
She describes her works as liminal and on the edge between abstract art and something more literal. Based now in Turkey elements of the shared history of Gallipoli has entered her work – not to the extent of outright statement but as a humanist inference and emotional extension to her “painting the nature of exile.” (1).
Although these are paintings populated with Handy’s “imagined geography” conveyed too “is a sense of dislocation and displacement.” (2) Nothing is fixed or remains certain, time is recalibrated, order emerges out of the unknown and a shifting procession of moods, moments and opportunities occur. There is geography of place - a mix of weather, land and sea - in which enigma develops and mystery forms.
Handy’s palette while still tightly argued and restricted has started to broaden and the use of a grid pattern – as a latitudinal and longitudinal reference – morphs readily from being marks or points of emphasis to that of a flying cross or the reconstruction the picture plane as an abstract device. She sources readily techniques of understatement; uses cubist informed patterns, calligraphic line, establishes soft geometries and luminous squares of light.
The resonant Empty Church Prayer parleys the phonetics of unuttered sound and how substance emerges from gloom. The remarkable We Sailed Away is a window to times’ passage. In Peninsula objects of divinity are inserted by intuition into the landscape and are thus revealed as being renegotiable, needing reassertion. The important We, too are falling traverses time but it is the past looking back.
Handy’s use of line and mark repetition (including devices of rising and falling, insertion of pattern, licks of light and sense of flight) posit effects and ambiguities in her work which are astounding. There is “torsion between volume and surface.” (3). The horizontal overlay of Anchor Me builds space back into the landscape. In In Memoriam Handy recomposes landscape elements into a flag and inserts squares which hover in unspecified space, moving backwards and forwards. Salute burns with intense rhythms and the winds of time flail a cross that both floats and flies yet is (somehow) still grounded. In Manzara blurs of substance and form engage with horizontal and structural dialogues of order, cartography, reflection and the motif of a window of squares through which everything is seen and felt.
The world of Handy’s paintings is not a rational world. It is one where feelings, intuitions, memories, possibilities and the unknown, unknowable and unexplained and unexplainable have the dignity of existence.
1. Anna Smith, “Charlotte Handy: Sea Lungs for an Inland Sea,” 2006.
2. David Eggleton, “The Sea Inside,” Listener, December 16, 2006.
3. Anna Smith, “Aqualung Blues: The Art of Charlotte Handy,” Art New Zealand, No. 124, 2007.