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A talk with … Sarah Harvey

By Mindo - 14th Jul 2020

The Medical Independent talks to Sarah Harvey, a London-based painter known for her
large-scale depictions of figures immersed in water. 

Sarah Harvey’s work has been shortlisted for, and has been the recipient of, many awards, including the Insight Investment Newcomers Award from the Royal Academy of London. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including solo exhibitions in Singapore, Australia and Ireland. She recently participated in the #PortraitsForNHSHeroes project launched by artist Tom Croft, which has led to 500 artists giving free portraits to frontline workers around the world.

What’s the biggest perk of being in your profession?

I don’t think you get much better than spending each day doing something you absolutely love ­— which is also a form of meditation. Also, I get to listen to whatever music I want at whatever volume, make and drink as much coffee as I want — and not get judged on the volume of chocolate biscuits I devour. Say no more!


Losing Control, oil on linen (diptych), 221 x 160cm

If you weren’t doing what you do, what do you think you would have done? 

I would have been one of two things: A saxophonist or a geologist. 

What motivates you?

Like most artists, I am driven by an innate, compulsive desire to paint or draw. I can’t explain why, but I get a huge amount of satisfaction from painting. Also, hearing how my art has brought some joy to someone is a massive motivator to me. Of course, I paint because I just love painting, but it’s really important to me that I share my talent and give joy to others through it. 

Falling Pleasure, oil on linen, 151 x 134cm

Where do you find your ideas?

Back in 2001, I won a scholarship to study Leonardo da Vinci in Italy. During this time, I happened across a green pool and got some images. Since then I have been evolving my study of water and the figure to where it is now. What I love is that every image is different, so each canvas tackles different painting techniques and ideas, which naturally evolves my practice. 

Cubist Waters, oil on linen, 115 x 169cm

What are you working on now?

I’m currently waiting for my studio to be built, which is very exciting, but it also means that I can’t work on my big paintings right now. So of late I have been involved in various lockdown art projects, one of which is the NHS campaign #portraitsforNHSheroes, doing free portraits to say thanks to NHS staff for all they’ve done for the country. When my studio is built — which hopefully will be in a few months — I shall be back to painting big again. I have a few ideas for what I want to do, but I’m keeping that under wraps for now. 

Series of charcoal studies for the art project #PortraitsForNHSHeroes


Instagram: sarahharveyinsta

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