chris headley

About Chris Headley

 I was born in York, England. I first studied art at York School of Art, later majoring in ceramics at the Central School of Art (now Central Saint Martins School of Art), London. I graduated in 1973 and at the age of twenty one set out for Australia. I travelled overland with my Australian partner, Jenny, mostly by trains and buses, across Europe and Asia. We journeyed through Turkiye, Afghanistan and Iran, and while travelling through Pakistan we were invited to a traditional wedding by the groom, with whom I had made friends on a bus trip between Isfahan and Teheran. We got lost several times in northern India before making it to Kathmandu. We eventually ran out of money in Thailand. A year after leaving England we finally arrived in Australia, where I have lived and worked ever since. I set up a ceramic studio in Sydney before moving to Adelaide to share in the artistic “gold rush” of the Don Dunstan era. I undertook my Master’s degree at the Canberra School of Art, Australian National University, in 1991, and in 1999, with Dr Owen Rye as my supervisor, gained my PhD from Monash University, Victoria.

 I have exhibited widely throughout Australia and overseas and completed several major Public Art commissions and Community Art projects. I have lectured in many tertiary institutions in Australia, including coordinating the Ceramics Studio in the Art and Design Faculty at Monash University. I maintain my healthy addiction to travel through international residencies (so far Thailand, USA, Spain, Taiwan and Japan).

Since the pandemic I have been focussing on the discipline of painting, sustaining my art practice from my studio at home in Melbourne. My decision to switch from three-dimensional works in ceramics to painting has given me the freedom to reflect upon earlier ideas, pushing them in new directions as well as exploring new concepts.

While the medium has changed, the fundamentals remain the same. I now mostly paint in oils. My paintings are largely informed by the direct observation of objects and surroundings, although I usually create narratives that combine aspects of memory and imagined scenarios. 

While my images are representational, I am not greatly concerned with the attainment of realism as a goal in itself. I apply a formal approach to my painting, with a primary interest in perceptual ideas. I am fascinated by the manner in which composition and application of paint combine to affect the depiction of form, volume, light, and space on the canvas.  The degree to which individual works appear realistic varies, depending on my response to the objects and images I observe, and what I am trying to convey.  I attempt to capture the dynamic tensions or contradictions within the arrangements of selected images, which largely reflects the way in which I personally perceive and experience my own visual surroundings.

In these narrative paintings I attempt to infuse the image with an existential question or conundrum, which does not necessarily exclude their content pointing to something more obvious or literal. I am not so concerned with striking an effective balance within each painting. The pictorial content, be it narrative, symbolic, or metaphoric is neither obvious nor convoluted and esoteric. In a playful way, I find that enigmatic images have a greater capacity to ‘feel’ compelling and universal. This is one of the essential qualities I strive for in the images I construct, whether in my paintings or in my ceramic works.