EXPERT'S CHAT: ARTIST HARVEY SAUNDERS
I first came across artist Harvey Saunders whilst we were completing our surf instructor course on the familiar shores of Newquay, Cornwall, earlier this year. As I always find with surfing, conversation is made easy, as you already find a common interest with a fellow human being in riding waves. Discovering Harvey was an an artist, through small, smart-phone imagery, I was quickly drawn into, and entranced, by his art, and ethos’ around it.
An almost fate-like coincidence days later saw me at the new boutique hotel Amouage by Surf Maroc, admiring some large-scale geometric collages hanging through the hotel. Created by, coincidentally, none other than Harvey. Delving further into Harvey’s art and creativity, I loved how his incorporation of symbology, geometry and earnest stoke for surfing is visibly manifested in his art. I was keen for him to create an artwork in the vein of Mad To Live, leaving a brief open to his interpretation.
Settle down for a piece with the phenomenally talented Harvey Saunders. Artist, surfer, creator and one of my favourite, and most interesting interview subjects to delve into to date.
Harvey Saunders, somewhat like me, seems to thrive on his work being closely linked, and interwoven, with his love of travel and surf. Growing up outside Brighton, in the south of England, and currently based on the South West Coast of Spain, Harvey’s work now sees him taking up artist residencies around the world, most recently having completed a stint at Amouage by Surf Maroc. I found myself mesmerized by the huge works which so beautifully rest in the break-side Taghazout hotel. A project that lasted over 3 months whilst Harvey created 2 large collage pieces for the new hotel, Harvey shares that
"Surfing and creating everyday in such a location was a great experience, and I'm real grateful to the whole crew. The first piece I created for them took exactly one lunar cycle to complete, full moon to full moon. I'd work, see there was a wave, jump in, surf, jump out, and do it all over again. “
An active interest as a child in “hanging out in trees, being mischievous in the countryside, football, ice hockey, chess, symbolism, mythology, archeology, geology" saw his passion for both art and surf ignited early on. A former pro inline-skater, a couple of concussions saw Harvey drop the blades and turn to skateboarding and surfing. Surfing since the age of 12, having badgered his dad for years to take him, what really stoked the surfing fire for Harvey was “my Uncle giving me a video over from Oz called Good Times, a Taylor Steele film which had just come out at the time. It had some sick sections and a rad SoCal punk rock soundtrack. That was my introduction to punk rock bands like Strung Out, Pennywise, The Vandals, Bad Religion, Blink 182, AFI, and heavily influenced my music taste from that point onwards."
Family seems to have played a rich role in his development as an artist, and I love talking to Harvey about his grandparents, “both great artists in their own rights, and I have always been inspired by their sense of style in one way or another…"
"I didn't know my grandfather very well, he was a master printer and the founder of a very successful design company. Recently my Dad found some 8mm videos my grandfather shot in the mid 60s in Italy and the footage is golden. I have a clear memory of being in their Brighton Flat overlooking the sea on a sunny day sitting on a Charles and Ray Eames lounger chair with my grandfather spinning me round listening to Enya, haha say what you will, Enya is bliss!"
Harvey’s recent art works sees him “specialising in large scale geometric collages using found imagery.” His large-scale works are staggering, and the intricacies of utilizing materials such as magazines, which are “simple and easy to work with whilst travelling, and easy to get a hold of” make for breathtaking works of art. Harvey is also keen to “make some pieces out of wood. To work in a wood shop and develop works in a sculptural format would be fun..."
"Wood is great, all the concentric rings that form as it grows each year. . . Stone as well, working with both wood and stone is a very hands on intimate process, which is what I appreciate.”
On research I found out sacred geometry is something highly influential in Harvey’s work. Admittedly not being overly familiar with what exactly sacred geometry is, I asked Harvey to explain. "Geometry was originally the measure of the earth, practiced by the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Sacred geometry takes it to another level where there is a philosophical and symbolical connotation to the forms, the patterns, the proportions and the relationships that one finds in the geometric realm.
“Sacred Geometry looks at the way that geometry manifests throughout all the levels and realms of creation, from the microcosmic to the the macrocosmic and everything in between and how geometry serves as a unifying body of principles or relationships that ties all of those domains together. That includes the human domain.”
The layers of his inspiration seem to mirror the physical layers of his art’s materials, which also so visibly to me tell stories about his other sources of inspirations. So rich the tapestry of his works, they feel as though they reflect many a story and indeed, Harvey attests that his inspirations also include “ancient civilizations and cultures, religion, board riding culture, fashion, music, art. I've been particularly inspired by Native American culture. …
“I had an interesting moment with a Native American friend, when I first met him we talked, and a second went by where it felt like a freight train went by my ear. He felt it too, and later told me that he was told that I should look after his peace pipe that was given to him by Native Elders, for the evening. I had some strong dreams that night . . .”
I have often wondered, where an artist’s work, and the act of creating it, can take them, if anywhere. Harvey answers:
"I would like to say a zen like state, but It's basically a form of meditation for me, building a work by making thousands of cuts of paper. It definitely feels to me like a form of therapy, cutting the bullshit and making a microcosm.”
I was incredibly excited to see what Harvey had created with his brief of MAD TO LIVE, and with such an open brief, I wondered where he drew his inspiration from:
"I got a good feeling from you Sophie, you were an inspiration to the people around you. Energetic and fun! After looking at Mad to Live and developing an understanding of what the essence of the vibe of the blog is, I was inspired to create a vibrant piece, energetic and fun, and which worked with the colour palette of your logo."
(Thanks Harvey ;))
"I started working on the piece in England using some of the imagery that I found whilst creating my pieces for Surf Maroc. I then travelled to the south west coast of Spain and finished the piece using surf magazines spanning 1 decade that I acquired from a friend."
I am blown away by what he has created, and how it completely captures the MAD TO LIVE vibe, so beautifully and patently in an art form. The piece comprising "the central octagon (which) has some pictures of microbes from the an Arabic Monthly from the mid-seventies, as well as circuit boards. I think they are special parts to this piece, as I like to hint at the natural and the digital realms. "
A well-travelled surfer (Santa Cruz, West Coast of France, Eastern Oz and Morocco include some of his favourite places to surf) Harvey is now, like me, in Lagos, Portugal over summer, busy working on projects, including developing a clothing brand, which he finds “fun because it's the project that I feel draws from all my areas of influence.”
Travel appears to be a central nucleus of Harvey, and I ask where is next for him: “I've been reading about Bhután quite a bit recently, I would love to go there. You know Bhutan is the only country whose largest export is renewable energy. It's also the only country in the world which absorbs more CO2 than it gives out.
But Mexico is at the top of my list. The Cave of Naica maybe. Peru, Indonesia, Cambodia, Hawaii, The Philippines, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Japan, New Zealand, The Pyramids, Kailasa Temple, Mount Kailash, China. “
A future rich in creating and travel looks to be on the cards for Harvey, who is looking to
"Stay happy and healthy, live close to some good waves, surf, create, innovate, and learn, become wise and grow a wise man beard."
Amen to that!
To find out more about Harvey and his art, head to
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