The Perfection of Erasure – Portraits and Landscape by Contemporary Painter Henrietta Harris – New Zealand

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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.

 

 

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Explore more work by contemporary artist Henrietta Harris on her website. The artist is represented by the Melanie Roger Gallery in New Zealand and the Robert Fontaine Gallery in the United States.

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