Pakistani artist Samya Arif has been making headlines around the world ever since a taxi she designed appeared in Coldplay’s Hymn for the Weekend music video.
The Indus Valley School graduate appears to be dominating the world of art. She recently designed a vinyl sleeve for Australian band Tame Impala which was showcased at Sono Studio in London, and has now been interviewed by the New York Times.
In the in-depth interview, Samya talks about the pros and cons of pursuing art in Pakistan.
When asked if it’s hard to find opportunities in Pakistan, the artist said, “Historically yes, although the good thing is that things are picking up. And in a way I’m grateful to be here. If I were doing the same thing in Berlin, I think it would be much harder to get noticed because there are a lot of brilliant people doing a lot of brilliant things over there. But in Pakistan the market for it is still new. People are just realizing that, Hey, being a DJ or being an illustrator can be a job. An awakening is taking place, and the opportunities are really ripe.”
Samya explains that her psychedelic style of artwork stems from Pakistani culture.
“In a way, psychedelic culture is very close to Pakistan’s culture: we have a lot of color, in our patterns, in our textiles, our monuments, so the bridge is there for me to connect both things. As a child, I saw a film about hippies in America and I don’t think I ever got over it. I often think about the Hippie Trail, and how so many hippies traveled all the way to Pakistan.”
The artist’s work has also proven to be controversial at times.
“It’s a slight concern in the back in the mind. What you see in the news about Pakistan is just a small percentage of what the actual picture is. But there is a sort of divide in Pakistani society between modern people and religious people and sometimes you get a few comments from people who don’t understand what you’re trying to say. Once I was painting a mural with a friend, and we painted two women below their necks and we were asked to sort of “cover the cleavage” — although there was no real cleavage to cover.”
Samya is now at work painting a “book bus,” a kind of mobile library, for the American Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal. She is also exhibiting work at the Alchemy Festival, which opens this month at the Southbank Center in London.