A hand is covered in a gauzy fabric. In the palm of the hand is a small image of a person's face

Photograph courtesy of the artist

Photograph courtesy of the artist

Dreaming With: Hamra Abbas

In the lead up to the Triennial opening, our Dreaming With Q&A series provides an exclusive glimpse into the artists’ lives and studios.

Where have you been during the lockdown?
In Lahore, Pakistan.

Is there anything you have found yourself cooking a lot of, and if so, would you be open to sharing the recipe with our readers?
I brew a pot of tea with fresh turmeric, ginger, and lemon, every day. And often make biryani, a mixed rice dish, which is great South Asian comfort food.

A person in a dark shirt reached into some tall trees to harvest figs

Photograph courtesy of the artist

What are you reading?
“The Scrutinizing Gaze in the Aesthetics of Islamic Visual Cultures: Sight, Insight, and Desire” by Gülru Necipoğlu.

What music are you listening to?
I recently reached out to a stash of old audio cassettes (a mixture of classic jazz, Qawwali, and old Urdu songs) found in storage that I have been playing using an obsolete Panasonic player.

What do you find yourself working on most during quarantine?
I have been working on several new commissions and public projects during quarantine. The lockdown has [given me] some extra time since most deadlines [were pushed] to next year.

How has your studio practice changed in recent months?
I usually work from multiple locations with a team of people. The lockdown has restricted me to my home studio, but I can still work on drawings and paintings in isolation.

A room with white floor and walls. There are shelves of books, a green armchair, brown soda, and a wooden desk with a computer and office supplies. A variety of chairs are arranged around the table

Photograph courtesy of the artist

Have you created any art in response to the pandemic?

What artists most inspire you?
Lala Rukh, Rasheed Araeen, Simone Leigh, Kara Walker, Isa Genzken, Josef and Anni Albers, Sol LeWitt.

What are you most looking forward to about participating in the upcoming inaugural Asia Society Triennial?
I am looking forward to seeing how contemporary voices in art from Asia are received in New York, particularly at this time of global change during the pandemic, and more so in connection to Black Lives Matter, "Me Too," and LGBTQ-rights movements. 

What do you most want viewers to take away from experiencing your work in the Triennial?
The faces defy description. So, I want the viewers to experience them with a certain level of intimacy and walk away feeling the full extent of the performative engagement I could experience during my interaction with the transgender community in Lahore.

A person in a blue button-down top and dark pants crouches on top of a large drawing surface, holding a paintbrush and drawing patterns that look like grape vines

Photograph courtesy of the artist

Has your perspective as an artist changed in the midst of the pandemic?
The disruption in our lives due to the strain of this pandemic has been a daunting experience. It has shaken our sense of security and requires a more profound reflection on who we are as people and our responsibilities towards [the] environment and life around us.


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