Encountering the portraiture of New Zealand artist Henrietta Harris is an unusual experience. At first, one notices a surface so finished and so perfectly stylish we seem to be immersed in a practice of cool restraint. And then, in act of rebellion and color, all of this is wonderful written over with a slash of color. In this painterly mark making there is erasure of identity, and yet, at the same time a strange kind of revelation.
Sfumato and color attracts and refrains from description, mixing abstraction with realism.
Henrietta’s images are a conjuring of the opaque fields of David Hockney unexpectedly overlapped with Ingres. I asked her –how did this come about, this mark making with swathes of paint, and vagaries of mist -why the painterly marking of each portrait seems to be about so many things: erasure, memory, mistakes, perfectionism…the artist remarks:
“I find it very interesting spending so much time in perfecting the pieces then obscuring them. I always have. I’ve been doing work like this for years and in the past, it was a bit of painting out a portrait I wasn’t happy with, but the main idea is mixing abstraction and representation in my work.”
Henrietta’s mist series demonstrate a command of the formal elements of painting combined with the sense of mystery and magical syntax. And the artist’s mountain series have a way of enchanting as well…
Her style she says, is something she stumbled upon and yet there is to it, a deliberate precision, and color to be something that clearly comes from studied technique and attention.