Priscilla Emmanuel delves into the creative process taken by visual artist Harvin Barriar, who has been winning hearts with her fresh, quirky, and captivating pieces.
A lover of bright, flashy colours and modern abstracts, Harvin Barriar’s brand of “collage” art will prompt one to get reacquainted with how we view and interact with shapes. An important part of early childhood learning frameworks, we’ve all started our educational journeys learning how to identify shapes that help us with organising visual information. Harvin’s ability to create collages of geometric art in different mediums almost presents a gateway for viewers to step back into their forgotten childhoods. Her creations carry an unmistakable element of playful curiosities, and her use of colour blocking invokes intriguing feelings of distant happy memories that come rushing back.
Considering herself a late bloomer, Harvin’s relationship with art began seriously in adulthood after she had completed university, and was looking for a creative outlet. The marketing executive revealed how after she had begun her corporate career, the need to paint become an unshakeable feeling she had to explore.
“The second I got done with uni, I began working as a marketing executive, but I wanted more than just a monotonous and uninspired life. I really can’t explain how or why, but I knew I needed to paint. And it took me a whole year to muster up the courage to pick up a paintbrush. The first time I didn’t even know what I wanted to paint, and the second time I got so overwhelmed and cried because I sucked at mixing paint, and color charts were beyond me. The third time I really forced myself to stay and practice, and it took. It was hard, I was so unskilled compared to others, but I loved the process and worked very hard to build skill and understanding of paint chemistry. I was 25 when I started, and I’m 27 now. It doesn’t have to be a childhood interest. It can be a lifetime interest, and if one feels the pull after searching, and I definitely was, then it is a worthwhile pursuit,” she tells me.
Harvin’s funky style of art in what she sometimes terms as “blobs and sloshes,” are a visual treat for anyone who loves bold, bright statements, and her use of different mediums allows her conceptualizations room to stretch, grow, and evolve on their own.
“It depends on what I’m doing. My experience so far has been almost entirely in acrylic paints, so when I think I’m going to sit down to make a piece of art, I usually reach for my acrylics. It allows me to sit with a painting for a while, and make adjustments until I’m happy with it. Or I can rescue one out of the slush pile and rework the whole thing. I very much appreciate water colors and oil painting, and other media as well, and in no way think acrylics are ‘superior’ to them. They just happen to have characteristics that fit my goals better.
“Sometimes I just want to capture something quickly. It might be a study for another piece, or it might be that I want to express an idea digitally using quick and easy strokes. In that case, I use Procreate and Photoshop on my iPad Pro, and an Apple Pencil.”
Harvin also creates groovy textural pieces with foam boards or PVC, giving range to her work and allowing for her processes room to stretch and grow into different conceptualizations of what visual artistry means to her. She’s even had one of her designs selected to be on a bottle of hot sauce famously known as the ‘Bum Burner’ that was made available at local Mexican restaurant, Orale.
Her pieces tend to carry an unmistakable sensation of tropical vibes with her uses of yellows, oranges, greens, and pinks. It’s like being reminded of all your favourite things growing up. When asked on her thoughts on the progression of the art scene in Malaysia, Harvin tells me, “I’m definitely a proud Malaysian “artist”, but I also feel a lot more needs to be done to develop Malaysia’s creative sector. I wish schools provided quality art education to its students, and that the art stream is given just as much importance as the sciences. One isn’t superior to, or beneath the other.”
“Before the pandemic struck, I found the creative scene here pretty vibrant and thriving, despite growing at a slower pace compared to other developing countries. More Malaysians are learning to appreciate different forms of arts that our local artists have to offer. I especially love installation works done by ‘Art in the City’ and Urbanscapes, and I look forward to these events every year.”
For commissioned works, Harvin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Harvin’s art journey on her IG @harvinbarriar.
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