March 24, 2021
By Ahyoung Lee
Goddesses finding their way to their friend's house
Hi, Hafiiz. Could you introduce yourself to the Art Terms Magazine readers?
I am The
Next Most Famous Artist. I’m an appropriation artist that explores different
artworks and mediums while spotlighting various social issues and highlighting
the beauty of everyday life.
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Tell us about your creative process of making your work?
My creative process is a lot about creating very
unique emotional experiences especially from the digital collages that I do. I
get very excited when I am able to reimagine different characters out of their
specific context and recontextualise them in another setting. The ‘Visitors of
Singapore’ series is one example where I appropriate these classical figures
and superimpose them into real-life scenarios that are familiar to us. When
doing the conceptualisation of each piece, I explore the modern setting that
will inspire the narrative of the work. It usually is based on my own
experiences or things I wish I could have done. Other times I get inspiration
from the classical figures that has a story ready for me to dig into.
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Where do you get these humorous inspirations from?
The inspiration is all around us. You just have to slow down, step back, and see the absurdity of what life is and laugh at it. We tend to take life too seriously and forget what’s happening in the present. Even though Singapore is constantly developing and changing, the stories and memories will always be embedded in the spaces. It could be as nostalgic as laughing with your favourite drink stall auntie or as current as watching your favourite Korean drama series on Netflix.
Couple dramatically avoiding the rain
Why did you start to add classical figures into real scenes?
We often associate these figures with a specific time and cultural zone and we tend to forget that they are also people who have desires, quirks, and a humanness that we can relate to. So I was curious to see how they would be like interacting as modern-day influencers in a contrasting environment like modern Singapore.
In your recent works, you work with not only the classical figures but also animation characters as well. Is there a standard of choosing which figure you want to transport them into the real world?
There is definitely a selection process that happens when choosing a particular figure. Firstly, I have to choose paintings that are in the public domain for me to work with. Then I have to make sure that their facial expressions and poses fit the story that I am constructing. I even have to take into account the direction of lighting sometimes so that I can ensure a seamless photo-manipulation.
It seems that you’ve worked on watercolour, drawings and monotypes, and your work style is different from now. What’s the difference between the works at that time and now? And why did you decide to change your style?
Thank you for acknowledging that period of my artistic expression because people tend to forget that I make art before the “Visitors of Singapore” series went viral. The works I’ve created before was mostly done for me navigating my emotions after a traumatic experience like losing my father to cancer and I had to find a way to deal with it without harming myself. So essentially, art saved my life. Once I have moved on from that past experiences, I was free to explore other mediums and concepts that interest me. This change of styles is mostly attributed to whatever experiences and skills I gained in school or work.
You’ve mentioned that taking away art from you is like ‘taking away your soul.’ How did you start making art, and why do you think it fascinated you so much?
I was always very interested in the act of creating. As a young boy I used to watch art-related television shows like "Art Attack" or "Finger Tips" on television and I would always attempt to recreate their projects and learn new techniques from it. In addition to the shows I watched, my parents were also very influential in my interest in art. My dad was very skilled in woodwork and electronics and my mum always found time to be creative like sewing, baking, and painting. Even though they did not pursue any art-related career, there was always a creative vibe at home. The time when I had to deal with my trauma and using art to express my emotions, was the moment I realized the true meaning of art and the power it has to reinterpret the meaning of life through different lenses.
Girl with a gas mask
Do you have a muse that inspires you while being an artist?
I do not have a specific muse because the daily happenings in life that we take for granted for inspires the stories I tell through my work.
If you can visit one of the scenes in your artworks, what would it be?
I would love to visit the scene of my work titled “Sisters letting go of control to start living again” and embody the joy and freedom the group of ladies are experiencing together.
Sisters letting go of control to start living again
Visitors of Singapore’ is incredibly intriguing series that I personally enjoyed the most. How does born and living in Singapore influence you and your artwork?
I have a lot of memories attached to Singapore and it was not a difficult decision for me to use these memories into my work. I feel that it just comes naturally to do that. What I learned from my experience as an artist is that art should be a reactionary process of one’s lived experiences, memories, and environment. Of course, other people can have their own definition of art but that is how I approach art; as a way of life.
Craving for some comfort food
Do you have a place/country that you want to make a series as the ‘Visitors of Singapore’?
I have experimented with scenes from America, South Africa, Japan, and London. So perhaps South Korea would be perfect destination for my classical figures to explore next! Haha!
You graduated BFA in Communications and New Media, and MFA in Asian Art History. How did you realize that you are not fit for an Art Historian or a curator?
As much as I loved the programme, I knew that I still wanted to be a creative, if not, an artist. The realization came during our study trip to Bangkok where we went to different art schools and artists’ studios like Pinaree Sanpitak. Hearing them talk about their work and the impact their art has in the art world and society inspired me. I also wanted to have a voice in expressing my own vision of life.
You are a digital art director by day and an artist by night. Is there any difficulties being both at the same time? Also, could you share a difference between a digital art director and an artist?
Art and advertising are two very different worlds for me. I believe that art is about reflecting the times. It is created with the intention of conveying thoughts and ideas. Art has the power to unearth the truth in ourselves, the community we live in, as well as the world at large. While some advertising campaigns are works of art, their core intention is to mainly improve sales or any other Key Performance Indicator assigned to measure the success of a campaign.
Is there a new genre or expression technique you want to try?
I am very interested in anything digital. I’ve worked with glitch art, and animation before. Right now I am experimenting with creating non-fungible tokens (also known as NFTs) and I am exploring how the visual language for creating Crypto art is very different from what I am used to doing.
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Now, let’s talk about your Instagram. Could you share a behind story for naming your Instagram @thenextmostfamousartist?
The name is inspired by Matty Mo who calls himself The Most Famous Artist on Instagram. I feel that in the age of social media and constant desire to be viral, everyone wants to be the next big thing. And as artists, there is always one eye open to hope and dream of being a part of the’ canon’ of art history. I imagine that part of being an artist is about self-expression and creativity but in some ways, it is a bid for immortality as well.
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14.1K online people love your artworks. Why do you think people are fascinated to your artwork?
I think that my works are very accessible for viewers. There are just so much content on social media that I had to find a way to cut through the clutter. When I create my artworks, I focus on making something which helps me to feel better and removes me from my everyday experience. When we scroll through social media, it can be very dejecting to only see negative and painful content, especially now when we are constantly bombarded by negative news surrounding the pandemic. I wanted to bring some light-hearted humour to people’s feed through my work and I hope that when they see my work, it adds some joy, laughter and positive thoughts to their day before they carry on with their lives. That’s what art should do; it should make you feel different or have an emotional experience. It’s not just about creating for the sake of it or to satisfy my ego but about giving viewers something they can connect with through their memories and experiences, and invite them to add to the conversation.
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If you can go to the future and meet 50-year-old Hafiiz Karim, how do you see yourself as an older Hafiiz Karim?
If I had a chance to see the future self, I would actually not choose to do so because I would rather live in the moment and enjoy what I have right now. But I would imagine a 50-year-old me still making art and finding different ways reflect on the times.
Since you’ve recently made Covid-19 related works, do you have any advice for other artists to go through this pandemic?
Since the world is changing so drastically, as artists, we should also adapt and change our artistic process and the way we circulate and disseminate our art. I count myself fortunate because my art was so relatable at the time and having most of my art live on social media helped during the lockdown period as most people and businesses are transitioning into the digital realm.
Me when client comes back with revisions at night
Is there an artistic goal that you would ultimately reach through your work?
The goal would be for to people see that my works are more than well-composed memes. Even though some of them are funny and beautiful, it goes beyond that to areas of empowering the viewer. It can provide an incredible potential for seeing the value of art in its artistic, reflective and communicative potential among people from different cultures and countries on social media.
Thank you so much for taking the time for the interview. Would you like to say something to the readers of Art Terms Magazine?
Thank you so much for taking your time to get to know my work and follow me on Instagram and be a part of The Next Most Famous Artist family :)
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