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Chris Henderson
Fictive instinctive

Chris Henderson's style is an explosion of colour and contrast layered onto the canvas. Moving effortlessly between the figuration of people and animals, his art is a genre where both form and content matter. This affinity toward figuration - a global trend in contemporary art - focuses on specific aesthetic approaches to working. While often painting a Ned Kelly figure inspired by predecessor Sidney Nolan, Chris removes the information from the image and is entirely focused on its design. The chosen reference moments of the Kelly era are used merely as blank templates and often undergo a complete reinvention through the seductive process of painting.

Chris's oeuvre is not limited to the genre of figuration and abstraction. As an artist who spans multiple genres, Chris widens his lens to paint large-scale public murals on the streets of his neighbourhood. Before working in a studio on a canvas, Chris's artistic practice was not restricted purely to daylight. His signature can be found in the streets as a white fox. This strange gravitation toward foxes is innate for Chris. He can relate to their nocturnal, shy, and quick nature, characteristics associated with tagging. Working quickly, loosely, and on a public canvas, the shape of a fox comes out in one motion from the hand in a mysterious way. In his studio work, Chris's imaginary protagonist adds a layer of authenticity and curiosity to these timeless but not placeless pieces. The former goldrush town Eldorado, in northeast Victoria, is the parallel universe for Chris and Kelly. This landscape represents the shape of Chris's imagination. The Kelly Gang used the caves, hills, and valleys between Eldorado and Beechworth for hiding spots during dangerous times. The mediating forces of contemporary art and outlaw life have given new meaning to the town's existence.

Sometimes referencing his rural life, Chris practices between Melbourne and Wangaratta, where he grew up. His studio - two rooms on the edge of the former wool factory - was initially the old owners' old offices. His art, a record on which we can build our understanding of this strange country, engages with a visual language of abstract grids and bold colours. Painting from imagination, Chris creates a world of outlaws, both human and animal. Beginning the process with sketching, Chris works instinctively and spontaneously, applying himself diligently and placing colours and shapes on the canvas that feel right at that moment.

The conversation between contemporary artists and their predecessors is enchanting. Chris's work is a homage to Sidney Nolan. Nolan's Kelly series was the first encounter Chris had with art, which has incredibly influenced his practice. At twelve, in Glenrowan McDonalds, owned by his aunt and uncle, Chris first saw a series of prints of Ned Kelly. Sidney Nolan has become almost synonymous with Ned Kelly. This connection is echoed in recurring elements as Chris's work builds over time. Chris's ability to rearrange an art movement within his own boundaries and make those imaginations resonate with his own identity makes his practice remarkable. 


Everyone's experience with art is about exploring and surprising yourself. As a self-taught artist, Chris understands how fluid representation and abstraction are. He develops a process that results in paintings familiar enough to trigger curiosity but deconstructed in a way they will hold onto attention and play with it. With great talent and skill, Chris's capabilities are pushed into place to paint figuratively and turn a thought-provoking narrative into a compelling picture.

By Amalia Mitsopoulos


‘OMG cats are so cute’ 

Oil on board 2022 


'Wall to wall festival'

Benalla, Victoria, 2019


Sketch of me at my place

August 2022

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