Henrietta Harris (b. 1984) is an artist from Aotearoa New Zealand based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. She has exhibited widely—particularly in Australasia and the United States—and has produced artwork for diverse publications and commercial clients. Throughout her career, her practice has been characterised by precise technique and psychological intensity. She often depicts individuals at the crossroads of early adulthood, in states of uncertainty or isolation—self-scrutinising and scrutinised by others.
Harris’s earliest works were executed on paper and tended to disrupt the usual access point to emotion, the face. She made pen drawings of people with visages barren of features but surrounded by lyrical waves of hair, requiring viewers to find different means of reading temperament, or to project attitudes of their own. Using watercolour, she played with faces in other ways, multiplying them or stretching them like taffy, such that they were differently enigmatic, or differently expressive.
Moving into oils, Harris began to experiment with more traditional modes of portraiture, creating immaculately rendered paintings in which brush-marks were all but eliminated. Her well-known Fixed It series saw her take to fully worked-up likenesses with thick pink paint, obscuring the faces of her subjects with impromptu scribbles. In so doing, she both reintroduced an element of obfuscation and abstraction—fixing the works by unfixing mood—and sought to resist her tendency towards perfection and finish.
A 2018 residency in Iceland encouraged Harris to explore the possibilities of landscape. The surreal beauty of the environment—with its intense effects of sunlight through cloud, across mountains, and on water—allowed her to produce works largely free of artistic deformation and with a distinctly photographic quality. A similar impulse has found its way into her latest portrait-based works, which play enthusiastically with effects of light, focus, and visual stuttering, while retaining a deep interest in the interior worlds of individuals, real and imagined.
Henrietta Harris has a solo exhibition in late 2020 as part of Art Week.
The Whimsical World of Henrietta Harris
Interview with Ellen Falconer, The Big Idea
Why Henrietta Harris Makes Beautiful Portraits - Then Defaces Them
James Manning, Paperboy
Henry Oliver, Sunday Magazine
Landmarks and Features: Henrietta Harris
Rosabel Tan, Pantograph Punch
Next Gen: Henrietta Harris
Artist Interview, The Department Store News
Henrietta Harris' Gorgeous Distortion
Interview with Laura Pulgarin, Portable TV