By Oliver Monaghan
Stricken by the melancholy of an extended adolescence, the millennial generation has found themselves somewhat at a loss. Caught in the cross folds between the expectations of the ‘Baby Boomers’ and a far from encouraging reality, as we try to make ends meet while attempting to tread the murky waters of a societal swamp that has slowly begun to engulf us. We adorn our digital presence, the only reality that now seems to matter, with filter after bloody filter in some vein attempt to make our world a brighter place, or at least to mask our disillusionment and turn it into something a little more palatable. It is at this intersection between digitally crafted dream and sad reality that the works of Henrietta Harris lie. Alluringly serene in their depiction of a generation who’s dysphoria has obscured expectations as she augments their picture perfect faces. Distorting them in an illusory manner that manages to perfectly portray the state of a generation.
Born in Auckland, New Zealand to a Primary School Art Teacher mother and a Lawyer turned Viticulturist father, Harris was actively encouraged to express herself creatively from an early age. Her parents surrounded her with works of art and books. Often taking her on trips to galleries and museums during the holidays, where Harris would attempt to copy the works of well-known artists in her own style. It is through this trial and error process and her later studies at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2006, that Harris developed her unique brand of portraiture. Lacing together a wide array of styles and techniques to create a distinctive aesthetic that has entranced the minds of the Instagram generation (she now has a following of 55.5k), Music executives and the press alike.
While her practice presents the world with dream-like offerings in perfect pastels, it is hard to avoid noticing the somber nature of Henrietta’s work. Her subjects, whose expressions tend to switch from contemplative to wistful and forlorn are often skewed by her signature technique (which she affectionately refers to as ‘Melty-Face’), enveloped by surreal mists or absent of facial features entirely. Creating an intriguing unease to her work that is instantly relatable. Her pictorial narrative provides her audience with both a form of visual escapism, while engaging their minds in an introspective manner that is often lost in most contemporary portraiture. It is this, alongside her exceptional skill as a draughtswoman and instantly identifiable blend of surreal and naturalistic elements that have made Harris a firm favorite of the online art scene. Helping her to continue gaining international recognition as her work is shown in galleries across the globe and at some of the world’s foremost art fairs including Art Basel Miami.