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‘Over de Boundary’: Sabriyya paints Bermudian culture

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Sabriyya Harvey (pictured) with Over de Boundary, which is now on display as part of the 2022 Bermuda Biennial (Photograph supplied)

Sabriyya Harvey is in love with Bermuda’s culture and is painting it for the world to see.

Her most recent work can be seen in the 2022 Bermuda Biennial, A New Vocabulary: Past. Present. Future.

“This work particularly speaks to the little pockets of community in the larger society of rituals that combine to create Bermudian culture,” she said in the artist statement that accompanies Over de Boundary, her oil on canvas.

“This community is where we all appreciate a mutual acknowledgement that’s built on the families and friends we form within.”

From a young age she loved that art gave her another way of expressing herself.

“Lisa Quinn-Brown, she was my neighbour for about three years and also my art teacher – and this was outside of school. She guided my artistic signature. I feel like it's how my lens evolved, sort of with inspiration from her work and the classes that I've taken with her.”

Her art teacher at Warwick Academy, Daniel DeSilva, encouraged her to take further lessons. Ms Harvey followed his advice and studied painting and sculpture at Mount Allison University, where she ultimately earned a degree in fine arts.

“I sort of found my niche there. I constantly say that I've proclaimed myself as a ‘stinky oil painter’ now, because all I do is paint. But that's sort of where my journey has taken me.”

Her goal is to eventually teach art here. Ms Harvey is completing a degree in education at Brock University although she “began her independent practice after graduating with her BFA last year”.

We Cah Stay, by Sabriyya Harvey (Photograph supplied)

Over de Boundary was her first entry in the Bermuda National Gallery’s Biennial.

“In my final year [at Mount Allison] we try to have a guided practice where we have critiques with our fellow art students as well as our instructors and professors so that was sort of the direction that I took myself down with my research and it tied really closely to the theme of the Biennial which was a very happy accident.”

Although it’s the only piece on display, Over de Boundary is the first in a series of three paintings which Ms Harvey started in January and took about two months to complete.

“Towards the end, my direction and thought were more geared towards the theme of the Biennial so I was producing the final work with that in mind.”

She was pleased with the feedback she received in New Brunswick, where no one knew anything about Cup Match.

“It was interesting to make work in Canada – where I was studying – about Bermuda and Bermudian culture because I had a different audience to show it to. The responses that I received were very fresh.

“In my artist’s statement I talked about how there's an unspoken understanding; how we communicate through this iconography and symbol that [in Bermuda], we will all understand. We know exactly that the painting is a scene from Cup Match but my peers and professors, they didn't have that perspective. So I think it pushed my work a little bit farther aesthetically, instead of just focusing on the content. It was a really good environment to be in.”

Over de Boundary by Sabriyya Harvey (Photograph supplied)

Showing her work here was a little more nerve-racking for the St George’s supporter.

“I'm from St George's and there's a lot of red in there,” she laughed. “I was worried about negative feedback from my family and friends.”

In Bermuda she also felt the “pressure to keep it authentic”.

“I feel like the content of the painting does keep it very at home and personal because you feel as though you are viewing the game; as though you are in a camp looking through the fence,” she said. “So it does keep it authentic in that aspect – but I was worried about critics.”

Ms Harvey is now working on a series of paintings with the Bermuda Day Parade as their theme.

“It’s keeping in line with how I'm viewing spectatorship and, sort of, small community within a larger community.”

The work will show as part of The Michael Nettles African Diaspora Globalisation Student and Artist Exchange in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“I am the emerging artist for Bermuda. It’s a diasporic exchange that’s led out of Columbia University, an initiative with four different countries – the UK, US, Brazil and Bermuda.”

Sabriyya Harvey works on Over de Boundary (Photograph supplied)

She was invited by Edwin Smith, the senior lecturer of art and design at the Bermuda College.

“We had these monthly meetings where we would share academic articles and there were presentations given to us from the academic heads at the exchange. We would share experiences and then I made work in response to that.

“So I'm looking at the parade but more that act of spectatorship rather than the floats and everything that is being spectated. I’m looking at the children in the crowd, that kind of thing.”

Her goal, always, is to make art that she connects with.

“Otherwise I wouldn’t be telling the full story,” Ms Harvey said. “So I live here, and I make work about my experiences and things that I find interesting; aspects of our culture that we may not usually take as much time to look at, freezing it in a painting. I’m sort of forcing you to look at Bermudian culture, something that I'm really interested in. I want to expose the things that we take for granted, especially coming out of the pandemic and looking at these rituals that we didn't have and the loss that we felt. So yeah, I feel that Bermuda has to be my focus.”

Her plan is to return to Bermuda and teach although she is also interested in sharing her work with “the artistic communities in the greater Toronto area”.

“I feel they have a very strong Caribbean community and I would like to share some of my ideas with them,” she said.

The 2022 Bermuda Biennial is on display at the Bermuda National Gallery until December 31. Follow Sabriyya Harvey at sabriyyanh.wixsite.com/website and on Instagram: artist_sabriyyaharvey. Contact her here: artistsabriyyaharvey@gmail.com

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Published August 05, 2022 at 8:02 am (Updated August 06, 2022 at 8:03 am)

‘Over de Boundary’: Sabriyya paints Bermudian culture

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