XXY in Conversation: The Artists Behind Subvert

XXY in Conversation: The Artists Behind Subvert

Nariscia Henriques and Hamed Maiye are two very different artists, one who wears her heart on her sleeve, the other more reserved – something which is completely reflected in their work, yet easily came together for ‘Subvert’, an exhibition celebrating young black artists. United by mutual love of art, expression, and wanting to represent a minority of artists.

‘Subvert’ was hosted by Small Axe Cove  – a collective putting on exhibitions and events for those who do not have the space to do this in London already.

Both Hamed and Nariscia work normal nine to five jobs, but completing the majority of their pieces at night shows the love they have for their craft and their commitment to bringing something to fruition. These are the kind of young twenty-somethings who should be an inspiration to the younger ‘instant’ generation that sometimes forget that clicking your fingers doesn’t make something happen overnight.

Nariscia studied Fine Art at UCA and it was only until the end of second year that she knew what direction she wanted to go in.

I have personally always felt that studying art at school or as a degree comes with the restraints of having to mark and critique another’s work, which I spoke about with Nariscia; “I had a tutor and he just didn’t really get me, and in second year again. I would start doing something and they’d just say ‘No’. [My ideas] just came from the top of my head, and everything has to have a meaning – they didn’t really get that. I was producing stuff that was OK but I wasn’t really confident about”.

But as a true testament to her passion for getting her message across, she carried on with her own vision, which led to painting on walls and floors for her degree show – with simplified elements of the shapes within her piece blown up in scale behind each artwork, inspired by the repeated patterns of Yayoi Kasuma.

On the progression of her ideas and work, she speaks about celebrating black culture –

“I want to have more women of colour in my pieces because I go to a lot of exhibitions, and if I see any black men or women in paintings, it’s very serious, or it’s sad, or harsh. I wanted to move away from that and show a different, positive side. I want to show a more positive side of women of colour and share that idea”.

Hamed is the counterbalance to Nariscia, more reserved when talking about his work. He tentatively defines that “The base of all [his] work is all about self-expression, trying to convey a certain emotion, a certain moment in time, a feeling”.

His work is truly expressive, taking inspiration from Francis Bacon and the expressionist movement. His work is not just a direct reference to Bacon, although you can see the influence. Hamed is truly engaged in each piece, explaining that “Feelings aren’t something you can really fathom, in my work I want to try and bring the physical side to emotion – manifest it in my work”.

Hamed reflects upon his favourite pieces of work at the Subvert exhibition; “I have favourites for different moments. One of the earlier ones was when I broke free of myself. I used to try and do a more realistic style, but with this, I just forgot about what the image looked like, and tried to do an expression of the image”.

An example of how he differs from Nariscia’s complete outward approach to herself and her art, Hamed talks about how his family know that he is involved with his art, but that they do not know the full extent. “I only told my mum this morning [about the exhibition], I wanted to show her the pictures afterwards and see her reaction. I’m quite a reserved person, so if I didn’t want you to know, you wouldn’t know”. This shows such an interesting offset in the insta-generation, contrasting with the fame-driven attitude that a lot of young creatives have.

Hamed talks of Nariscia’s work in comparison to his, stating that Nariscia’s work as a young black woman representing the black community in a positive light is unique; “What I appreciate about her work is that it’s very well calculated, very well balanced. In comparison to my work, it’s very positive”.

Hamed speaks about the next progression in their journey: “The biggest challenge is securing spaces in London, as it’s so expensive”, – which is an increasing difficulty with the younger generation who wish to showcase their own work, with budgets for space out of their range. Having Small Axe Cove collaborating with these upcoming individuals allows them a leg up to this platform, especially for a largely repressed community in the world of the big dogs in art.

Part two of the Subvert exhibition series, Subvert/Reflect, will be hosted by the Republic Gallery on August 19th & 20th. This will further explore the themes of perception of race, creating a positive image for protagonists of colour, the redefinition of the female figure in art and personal identity.


Written by Laura Wells,


Artwork in order: Nariscia Henriques and Hamed Maiye

Nariscia3 Nariscia1 Nariscia2 Hamed1 Hamed3 Hamed2