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Sabby Jamalulail, BA (Hons) Fine Art

28th June 2022

Sabby Jamalulail has a strong desire to explore the communities that have shaped her. A fine art graduate from Northumbria University, she enjoys nothing more than expressing her personal history through her art.

Sabby said: “I’m originally from Malaysia but I left there when I was three years old and moved to England. I grew up in Coventry and then moved up to the north east so I’ve experienced several different cultures that are part of my identity. I try to highlight these cultures in my art, which is all about the built environment. I make houses from recycled materials and represent aspects of the buildings I’ve seen in Malaysia and England.

“Ultimately, there is creativity in everything around us, even in the plates we eat our food off, and I want to showcase this in my art. I’ve always been interested in creative subjects and working with communities; I used to be a teaching assistant and really enjoyed it. Perhaps it runs in the family; my mum does a lot of charitable work and has worked with refugees.”

The quality of Sabby’s work is being recognised not only by Northumbria University but also further afield. She has been awarded an artist’s residency programme with Middlesbrough Art Weekender, an annual contemporary arts festival, via a New Graduate Award. This award showcases work by budding artists from all over the region and Sabby has been asked to present her work at this year’s festival, which takes place on 22-25 September.

“I’m not sure what I’ll exhibit yet,” she admitted. “It’s a work in progress. It will be something to do with creativity in the built environment – perhaps a building that’s a fusion of English and Malaysian architecture. I displayed my work at Northumbria University’s REVEAL 2022 and representatives from MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art), which organises Middlesbrough Art Weekender, came along and saw my work. They must have been impressed with it because they gave me a New Graduate Award.”

Kingdom Malaya

As part of her award, Sabby will receive money for travel costs, a studio space in Middlesbrough in which to showcase her work, and mentorship from experienced artists. She’s quick to acknowledge the role that Northumbria University has played in her success to date.

“I totally enjoyed my time at Northumbria,” she said. “The lecturers got on board with my ideas and inspired me to keep going, to think bigger and be more ambitious.”

One of Sabby’s tutors is Allan Hughes, an artist and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Northumbria. He said: “We’ve been really impressed with Sabby’s dedication and willingness to explore her own culture and history through the medium of art. Along with the other students, she has shown resilience and agility to adapt to the restrictions on her studies during the pandemic, and to juggle the demands of her degree with her family life. 

“Sabby is not only a talented artist; she’s an inspiration to other students who want to follow in her footsteps.”

Sabby, whose son, Noah, is two in September, says she has had to be “super organised” to juggle parenting with her studies.

She said: “I have a whiteboard in my house and I write lists. That helps me to prioritise tasks.  

“As for the future, I’d like to host workshops in the local community and showcase my art to children and people from disadvantaged backgrounds. I’m currently running workshops with two schools and I want to educate people that they can express creativity through their art.”

Find out more about Northumbria’s BA (Hons) Fine Art.

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