#CulturallyAMA with The Next Most Famous Artist

Welcome to the second edition of #CulturallyAMA repurposed for a blog, where we introduce guests and conduct an ‘Ask Me Anything” session. The conception of this campaign #CulturallyAMA stemmed from wanting to introduce prominent individuals who have had an impact on local culture to our audience. This was to bring about discussion amongst our audiences which would, in turn, attract more attention to local topics that are often overlooked. This week we have local artist Hafiiz Karim, better known by his online moniker: The Next Most Famous Artist!

Hafiiz Karim, aka The Next Most Famous Artist

Hafiiz Karim is an Art Director in his day job at an ad agency. What makes his work different is his night hustle on Instagram where he creates creative contemporary works mixed with a spice of history. Many have been drawn to this unique art form where various historical figures can be seen in starkly contrasted modern contexts. 

Hafiiz graduated with a degree in Communications and New Media, and thereafter went on to pursue a Masters in Asian Art Histories. While this fame may be newfound, Hafiiz expressed that these ideas have been intriguing him even in his days of pursuing his Masters. Safe to say he has managed to amass a following of 15k followers on Instagram, as he continues to find creative ways to induct classical figures into the most absurd situations you would least expect.

How did you come up with the idea of incorporating Singapore into your works? 

It was actually the most natural thing to do because the narratives from my work are all based on my own experiences in Singapore. And since these classical figures are often associated with a specific time and cultural zone, I was curious to see how they would be like interacting in a contrasting environment like modern Singapore.

Where do you usually get your inspiration from? 

The inspiration is all around us. You just have to slow down, open your mind and find the beauty in what's around you. 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.

Any advice on what to do when you have a creative block?

Experiment with other techniques or subject matters. During the period of creating the Art History series, I had a creative block for a week and I did not create anything. So I thought of other characters that I grew up watching and loving like characters from Disney or Ghibli Studios and reimagined them as regular people living regular lives – work from home, shopping, etc. And during the days when I just don't feel like touching my collages, I draw fashion illustrations and dabble with glitch art. By experimenting with something different, I find myself inspired to venture [into] different ideas and expand upon [them].

Did you face any difficulties when you first started posting your works on Instagram? 

The main challenge for me starting out was getting my art noticed. I started to doubt my own value of my art. But after a lot of shameless promotions of my work and endless support from my friends, my work started to get noticed. And then it snowballed from there :)

Have you ever come across people who believe that appropriation should not be considered art?

Of course! But after explaining to them about the creative process and how it fits in the age of social media and remixing, I think they became firm believers of my work :) 

Anything you would like to say to all the people who enjoy your art? 

Thank you so much for all the support and [for] making The Next Most Famous Artist a reality. The moniker could have only existed and sustained because you guys help me become the artist I am today. I am forever grateful!

What do you think of the current art scene in Singapore? 

I think that it is very exciting to see a rise in new media art especially from the recent Singapore Art Week where there is not only adoption of new technologies but also how we navigate our lives in this digital era.

How do you recommend I go about creating a full-time career in art? 

It's hard for me to give my advice on this because I am just a baby in the art world. But I would suggest slowly getting into it as a side gig to get your art noticed while working full-time to support yourself and your art. Be open to any projects that are offered but do not lose your artistic voice. Then one day, you will reach that crossroads of choosing to leave your day job to pursue your art full-time. And you will just know in your blood, what your next steps are.

Any artists/works that you would recommend? (be it local or international)

@faris_nakamura, @theeverydayness, @andhikamuksin, @minishistudios, and @themostfamousartist (obviously)

What are some of your future plans for @thenextmostfamousartist? 

I am currently experimenting with Cryptoart and would like to establish my work in the Metaverse.

Concluding thoughts from the writer: 

With the advent of social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, it has arguably offered greater freedom for artists’ expressions while not being limited to the parameters of traditional mediums. One might even argue that the birthing and popularity of these platforms was the catalyst as it necessitated the increased volume of visual content to appeal to the crowd. This, I feel, then drives modern artists like Hafiiz to ideate and explore different forms of content, which is, in this case, the merging of digital art in a contemporary context, specifically modern Singapore. I personally feel this disruption may have arguably spurred the creation of a new wave of digital content around the world. As mentioned by Hafiiz, he is currently experimenting with Cryptoart, an emerging category of art with close relation to blockchain technology. These, along with Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), have shown the world the power of digital art, as many fight to bid for NFTs such as remastered digital artworks and even Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s first-ever tweet. While there will always be detractors gatekeeping what Art should be, criticising the tainting of traditional art through digitalisation, perhaps the best thing you and I can do is to embrace the inevitability of this disruption.

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