KARACHI: Oscar Wilde’s famed saying, “Art is the most intense mode of individualism”, seems to be the gist of photographer/artist Hamra Abbas’ work. At a small gathering at the ArtNow office in DHA Phase 5 on Friday, the young artist spoke to a captivated audience about her inspiration — the culture and people of the various cities across the world where she has lived.
Abbas explained that her work is a visual translation of her state of mind at a given time. For instance, the time she spent living in Istanbul explains the Ottoman influence in some of her art pieces. It is not rare for an artist to consider a city as their muse, and Abbas proudly states that she also incorporated the milieu of Berlin and New York in her art, to share her experiences of the two cites.
While her main medium is sculpture, her work explores a diverse range of materials such as paper, plasticine, fibre glass, photography and video to suggest modalities of interpretation.
Her love for miniatures was born when she dabbled in macro photography; and when she felt she had been “trained in a classical, traditional way”, she returned to stone and clay and opted for plasticine to channelise her creative streak.
One of Abbas’ most recent ventures, “Idols”, is a collection of miniatures made from plasticine. One would expect a sculptor to say that making faces was the most gratifying stage of this project, but Abbas says it was the experience of human bonding that mattered to her the most.“I feel human interaction that serves as raw material for these miniatures is a prerogative. It makes one feel like more of a human than just a faceless consumer because people start looking at you differently.”
Abbas worked on these faces while she was living in New York and — in order to feel what the American dream tastes like — she invited people from the working class and made miniatures that resemble their faces. “The economic meltdown and financial crisis made me want to observe the common man and bond with him on a deeper level,” said Abbas, as she spoke to the crowd.
Moreover, Abbas shared anecdotes of her life which showed that her mind and body inhale cultural dynamics and exhale art. Abbas stated that she used her pregnancy and hormonal imbalance to her advantage by indulging in cathartic experiences and churning them into art.
Some of her most discussed works include The Woman in Black, a visual ode to “women empowerment that became evident during the Lal Masjid tragedy in 2007”. Others include God Grows on Trees, Lessons on Love and Paradise Bath.
Abbas was the proud recipient of a jury prize at the 9th Sharjah Biennial in 2009. Her work has been included at one of Australia’s largest art festivals, the Biennale of Sydney (2006), along with the International Incheon Women Artists Biennale in Korea (2009) and Asian Art Biennial in Taiwan (2011). Currently, she is in Karachi and will be exhibiting her work at the Canvas Galley from June 19.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.
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