Harriet White is a contemporary realist painter living and working in Bristol, UK. She studied at Falmouth Art College then Bath Spa University College, graduating with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art in 2001. Since then, she has exhibited regularly in the UK and the USA, has twice been selected for the BP Portrait Award and the Holburne Portrait Prize, has been a shortlisted artist in the Threadneedle Prize for Figurative Art, exhibited in the 2023 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and was the winner of the Tom Urwin Special Fine Art Award at the Society of Women Artists exhibition 2023.  

‘My paintings evolve through an instinctive interest in surface, light and pattern, and involve large scale interpretations of my own photographs. Switching between faces and botanical themes, the subject matter is unified by an implication of drama and a sense of a hazy, ambiguous narrative. The scale invites close scrutiny; the oversized flowers or a closely cropped face are enlarged to such an extent that on physically close inspection they take on a different feel, the colours and shapes touching on pure abstraction. Stepping back, they take form and it’s human nature to recognise the familiar and seek a narrative. The reflected light and imagery suggest a sense of something happening elsewhere, just out of frame; the image captured is a close crop of an implied wider picture. The lighting and crop often reference cinema, but the paintings remain distanced from any kind of conclusion, maintaining a sense of something slight, dreamt or misremembered.

My most recent set of paintings is based on small sections of woodland. Working in oils, and using techniques borrowed from my practice in portraiture, I meticulously translate photos cropped from a wider scene. Images of forests are entrenched in the mystical, the stuff of fairytale, and can trigger a sense of either tranquility, danger, or anything in between. The colours are altered, stripping the scene of a sense of place or season, opening them up to ambiguous scrutiny; I love the idea that interpretation can be different according to past experience, the suggestion of an unknown narrative.’