John Harvey was born in 1959 in Nantyglo, Monmouthshire, Wales, in the United Kingdom. He lived in Abertillery, in that county, until 1977. During his undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Fine Art at Gwent College of Higher Education (1977-81) and the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth (1982-4, 1986-91) he was taught by, among others, the conceptualist Keith Arnatt (1930-2008), cybernetics artist and theoretician Roy Ascott (b. 1934), the systems artist Keith Richardson-Jones (1925-2005), and the painters Jack Crabtree (b. 1938), David Tinker (1924-2000), and Ernest Zobole (1927-1999).
From the early 1980s to the mid 1990s Harvey’s art practice brought together the imagery of schematics, electronics, mechanisms, hieroglyphs, and post-industrial landscape. The work espoused a form of visual polyglotism, and attempted to fuse visual languages and gather opposing tendencies: drawing and painting, construction and illusion, abstraction and figuration, minimalist and maximalist preoccupations, and academic and modernist techniques. During this period he became increasingly interested in art historical study as a complementary activity, and began to explore the visual expression of religious belief, and Protestantism in particular.
Since the mid 1990s he has sought to forge a reciprocal relation between his study of the visual culture of religion and his art practice. He regards his art historical research and image and sound making as, increasingly, articulations or manifestations of the same preoccupations. In his writing he has explored the relationship between the text, image, and sound; the process of translation from the literary to the visual and sonorous; and the concept of images (visual and sonic) as repositories of belief, expressions of religio-cultural identity, vehicles for theological reflection, and modes of interpretation.
Harvey’s image and sound making are, likewise, an academic inquiry — a mode of textual (scriptural) analysis, exegesis, and hermeneutical inquiry, responsively informed by personal contemplation and research conducted in the fields of Biblical Studies, Religious Studies, and Theology. The works aim to illuminate the bible and its cultural expressions, not so much in the traditional sense of adorning or decorating the text as in making it enlightening and explicable, either visibly or audibly. Consequently, they are artefacts derived from reflection rather than intended for adoration.
In 2010, Harvey re-engaged his interest in experimental sound and music composition, which he had abandoned in 1977. His sonic articulations involve processes, systems, and semantic content suggested by biblical texts (either written or spoken) and the Protestant culture of preaching, exegesis, teaching, and worship.
He now lives and works in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Wales.