Self-taught artist and author, Maria Qamar, is well known on the Internet through her Instagram ID @hatecopy where she has been uploading her illustrations, paintings, sculptures and merchandise for the last five years. Her latest solo show opened virtually at Richard Taittinger Gallery in New York on July 9, 2020 at a time when the global pandemic has affected North America immensely. The exhibition is intimately reflective of her own experiences over the past few months. The experience of being alone, the feelings of uncertainty and anger all find their place in these works. She taps into feelings of depression, lust/loneliness, and anger, which many of us have felt throughout this time of quarantine and isolation. She also creates hope through work, which captures the outrage, resolve, and strength many of us have found in quarantine, particularly in the wake of protests fighting against racial injustices. We are living though a time of unprecedented learning and participation that is galvanizing entire generations who are working to reshape the world and societies we live in, including the digital communities that supplement and expand our physical communities which connect across borders and time zones. Qamar engages with ways in which we turned to social media and technology to reach out and to cope. Works such as Naach and Then You Broke Up with Me on Zoom speak to space digital apps have been occupying in our lives. Theek Thaak, a play on Tik Tok, points to the limited capacity of digital apps. Often the things we use to feel better can become a crutch and leave us feeling more alone. We caught up with Maria Qamar and asked her few questions about her latest show and her favourite meme pages that she follows.
1. Tell us about your journey as an artist?
Saying the journey of an Artist is a lonely one is an understatement. In my early twenties I couldn’t wait to come home from work and sit in silence. These days I can’t wait to be able to step outside and make a joke to the barista.
2. Who inspires you everyday?
I’m inspired by the younger generation, constantly. It makes me proud to see the anger, the fight and the persistence for social change towards inclusivity. I aspire to have that level of self-confidence.
3. What does inclusivity mean to you?
Inclusivity means recognizing intersectional feminism and making a conscious effort to allow the complete freedom of expression, without judgment, and to always keep it in demand. Inclusivity to me means getting rid of cis heteronormative narratives to make space for everything else. Me Meraself and I is a show that champions inclusivity by locating the specific in the universal. These past few months have been challenging, they have caused us to be isolated
and turn to technology, but they have also been invigorating. We are seeing change and new ways of understanding the world, particularly from younger generations (who are able to leverage technology in really revolutionary ways.)
4. Which meme pages do you follow? Are you influenced by them?
I follow more food accounts than anything else. They remind me to eat during particularly long work sessions. There are often references to food in my shows, and in this exhibition Ladoo reflects on how much food can offer in terms of comfort.
5. In your new show you focus on the current situation and the effects of isolation, could you give us an anecdote about how you felt during the quarantine period? What were your coping mechanisms?
For one, I started therapy. While most, if not all my work is created in isolation, pre-COVID19 times allowed me to accept distractions or to simply go out for a drink before returning to the studio. Working from home is literally living and breathing your profession, and this is something that can mess with your sense of purpose fast. It is key that we are able to take care of ourselves and COVID isolation has really brought that into focus. I think art is an important element of “self-care,” both as an artist, but also for viewers. Looking at works of artists I admire can be really inspiring for me.
6. You are very popular on Instagram especially within the South Asian communities, are there any tips you would like to give artists on how to become popular on Instagram?
A large following shouldn’t be the goal for any creative person. It’s comforting, sure, to know that a group of people support and relate to the work, however, this is process of over half a decade of consistent work. The most important tip I can give is to keep building on your work to become bigger and better. If a social network collapses tomorrow, it wouldn’t matter if you’ve still got your skills. Art is a life-long pursuit, and as we have seen, as technology speeds up, you can’t be sure about the lifespan of any given app, but you can always be sure that practice and work will have long term results. I can’t wait to see the work that this generation of artists is going to create.
7. What is your favourite gaali?
Kutti. I take it as a compliment.
Text by Abhinit Khanna