Episode 3: The Next Most Famous Artist


Known by the moniker The Next Most Famous Artist, Hafiiz Karim is a digital art director whose works have made ripples throughout Instagram. Hafiiz creates images that amalgamate figures from art history with contemporary, everyday settings.

In this episode, we talk to Hafiiz about how he wields visual references from classical art history, how these paintings continue to serve as a source of creative inspiration for his work, and the importance of having fun with the process of image making.
Originally Aired: 12 January 2021




Transcript

Object Lessons Space
For all the passionate arguments we’ve heard about the perils of social media, it has, undeniably, redefined our lives, our relationships, and the way in which we consume content.

You can send messages to friends, buy takeout, and transfer money to a family member all without leaving WeChat. TikTok stan accounts served up some real life consequences by trolling political rallies, organising young voters, and providing real-time election updates in the United States. Instagram is also becoming more of a marketplace first, and an image-sharing platform second. What I’ve listed are just some examples of how pervasive social media is, and the sort of hold it has on us.

This episode is all about doing it for the gram. Known by the moniker The Next Most Famous Artist, Hafiiz Karim is an art director whose works have made ripples throughout Instagram. Made digitally to be viewed on digital platforms, Hafiiz creates images that amalgamate figures from art history with contemporary, everyday settings.
The Next Most Famous Artist
I understand that the artist is known as a lone genius, but because of the meme structure, and also the structure of social media, there's this community creation narrative, like renarrating artworks, and also the participatory aspect, the participatory culture of it. It really makes the work come to life, you know? So it's not just an artwork in an art gallery. It's like this organic moving thing on social media.
♪ Podcast jingle ♪
Object Lessons Space
Hello and welcome to yet another episode of Mushroomed, a podcast hosted by the Singapore-based online platform, Object Lessons Space. We hope you’re enjoying this series so far. My name is Joella — and I’m your host for this podcast.

Hafiiz makes works that are vibrant, witty, unexpected and humorous. He crops certain figures out of well-known classical paintings, and places these figures in various different settings. A French noble lady peruses fresh produce at a wet market. Instead of devouring his son as per the famous Goya painting, Saturn is holding a large cup of bubble tea instead. These tongue-in-cheek images have certainly caught the attention of many, and his Instagram page, @thenextmostfamousartist, boasts more than ten thousand followers.

A recent series he’s worked on is Disney Art, where Hafiiz creates collages that comprise scenes from Disney animated films juxtaposed against figures from Japanese prints or painting. To give you a flavour of some of his works: one of the images from this series features Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid looking forlornly at a Japanese lady. In the background are storm clouds and a rocky beach landscape. Ariel cradles her Japanese counterpart’s head with one hand, and with the other, wraps her in a soft embrace. The Japanese painting in this work is Kai-awase by Ikeda Shoen. Shoen was a talented Ukiyo-e and Nihonga artist, and this particular painting of hers is a depiction of the game of kai-awase. In the original scene from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Prince Eric lies in Ariel’s arms — in place of Shoen’s figure. In blending these two elements together, Hafiiz sets these two very different worlds on a collision course for one another: the Japanese Meiji era, and the modern American animation industry.

What Hafiiz does so compellingly is that, through his work, he breathes life into and reimagines these classical works of art for a contemporary audience. In his world, an 18th-century Rococo painting is captivating, relatable, emotive, and even contemporary. His images are testament to the fact that art making is a continuous process of invention, reinvention, and imagination.

In this interview, we talk to the artist about how he wields visual references from classical art history, how these paintings continue to serve as a source of creative inspiration for his work, and the importance of having fun with the process of image making.
♪ Transition music ♪
Object Lessons Space
It's been an exciting year for you, and your creative practice and career has taken all of these really exciting turns and trajectories. Just to give people a little bit of background to where you're at, and where you've been as well, you have two degrees — one in Communications and New Media, if I'm not wrong, and another in Asian Art Histories too, and you've done work as a digital art director. So I wanted to take some time to dwell on this, and the sort of connections that you formed. Talk to me about what comes to mind when you think of an early or formative experience with art.
The Next Most Famous Artist
With art, okay, so this has nothing to do with my career.

Because early on, I was mostly experimenting with ink and watercolors. I drew a lot of inspiration from Tracey Emin, who is a confessional artist, and I just love her work. Because at that point of time, maybe I was in Secondary 4, my dad passed away, and I didn't have any outlet to express. Who should I talk to? And it was during O Levels period, so there was a lot happening. So I saw her work, I saw how raw it was, and how easy it was for her to use emotions and turn it into art. And it wasn't like any art I'd seen before at that point of time. So I just used that as a starting point for me to make use of this emotion so that it also heals me somehow, and hopefully, it will help other people. But mostly it was like therapy for me.

Once that happened, once I got it all out, I started researching more about art and other techniques. I experimented with ink and ice and how it melts, or how ink can bleach and how the staining and a decay is quite conceptually poetic. It was like a period where I was just exploring what art could be, and the concepts I can come up with because I had no background in art. So I had to kind of teach — not just the technique — but also conceptually as an artist, what is possible out there, what is that to me. That was the period of, until [university] period I guess, four to five years where I was just experimenting with art techniques, and I thought I was a confessional artist — I don't know.

After that, I just went into an internship, because I needed to work, so the art stops for a while. I went for an interview for an HR position, weirdly enough. After that, I asked when I could get the results. And then she said, “Actually, you’re not really right for the role, but I can tell that you're creative, and I have a friend in advertising who might, you know, maybe something can happen.” Then bing, bang, boom, I got an internship in an advertising agency. Obviously, it was just an internship. I told him that I didn’t have any experience in advertising. My portfolio I showed him was my artworks — can you imagine that — in a cafe, through my phone. How professional is that, right? But thankfully, he saw something. I just took it as a means of practicing my skill a bit more, because advertising is a really safe way to be stable when you're creative, I would say. Like you get stable income to be creative. So that's where the skills come in Because before that I only knew how to Photoshop the pimples out of my face. You know, that was my skill level of Photoshop.
Object Lessons Space
It’s an important skill.
The Next Most Famous Artist
I know. It is so important, right?
Object Lessons Space
Such an important skill. Something that really struck me throughout your response was this idea that art has been a real constant throughout your whole entire life, and also, your formative years. Something that you've said recently in an interview is that art was “as important as any bodily function” for yourself. And I wanted to maybe throw it all the way back to 2018, which doesn't seem like it was such a long time ago, but it feels like it is.
The Next Most Famous Artist
What happens in 2018?
Object Lessons Space
I wanted to talk about how your project, The Next Most Famous Artist, began, and whether there was a particular moment or a driving force that sparked off this creative project for yourself.
The Next Most Famous Artist
2018? What's in — 2018 was when — yes, yes yes. Oh my gosh, it's like you know more about me than I know about myself. Before The Next Most Famous Artist, I was called Little Boy Blue. I know — no, let's not — let's move on. After that, I was researching. Of course, everyone knows about the most famous artist, and how he questions our drive and our need to be out there, you know. I realised, wow, this is the kind of angle I'm interested in, not doing traditional ways of art or traditional art forms. So I decided, I want to be the most famous artist. And then my friend said, “Well, you can’t.” I know I can’t, but maybe I can be the next one. And then the line formed. So I just put it out there, just to test out, then people seem to like it, and then there we go — The Next Most Famous Artist.
Object Lessons Space
The project has obviously grown leaps and bounds ever since.
The Next Most Famous Artist
Yeah, oh my gosh.
Object Lessons Space
I wanted to also turn the conversation towards the process of putting an image together for yourself. I think for many people who have encountered the work, I think what strikes them is the way in which it combines these really historical, classical figures with really contemporary or modern day scenarios, and the sort of juxtaposition that creates, right? When you're putting together something, or you begin to work on an image, which comes first for yourself — the work that you're drawing from, or the photograph that you've chosen of the scenario that you're doing?
The Next Most Famous Artist
It’s both ways, really, to be honest. On one level, one, I have a story I want to tell, and then I go into the art history piece that would mostly relate based on the expressions, or the poses, or even the history behind the painting. From there, I will look into the photographs that will match it, because classical paintings have a very linear perspective so I need a proper photo to match with that. On the other hand, when we start off with the photograph or the scene itself, there's always memories and stories attached to spaces. Places are always changing, but the memories are always intact, so there's always something there. Sometimes I go to the photographs, and I know what I want to tell, the story or the narrative of it, then I go into the history part, and search the right pieces for that.
Object Lessons Space
And so many of the works that you've drawn upon, or incorporated, are really pivotal fixtures within Western art historical canons. Many of these works have this incredible allure about them. I mean, it just speaks to this enduring quality, because they continue to captivate people so many years on, right? On a personal level, I remember seeing both Boticelli’s Primavera in real life before, which I understand is also a work that you referenced in your own pieces, and it was just a completely captivating experience, right? It’s this larger than life canvas, the transparency of the Three Graces and their draped tunics. And I think what I was taken by the most was the fact that the work was made with pigment that was mixed in with egg yolk.
The Next Most Famous Artist
Oh yeah, what is it called?
Object Lessons Space
Tempera?
The Next Most Famous Artist
Ah, tempera, yes.
Object Lessons Space
For yourself, what draws you into these historical works of art?
The Next Most Famous Artist
Okay, so going back, the moment I was taking my masters in our history, we had this introductory lecture on Western art history. When I saw these pieces, or when I saw these figures, they're almost like, even though they're stuck in time, I could relate to them somehow. And I know they have some stories of their own, and how they would be like in our time. That's why the more important pieces, I feel more drawn to see how they would react, because they are more known for something at that point of time, in their own culture, in their own time. I was so interested to see how different it will be. When you have one timezone and another timezone for the modern, when you put it together, the remix, the mashup, your mind does something to you, and it just becomes an intriguing composition.
Object Lessons Space
It's so interesting that you say “remix” or “mashup”, because I wanted to also talk a little bit about the sort of ways you would describe the methods that you work. For a lot of people who think about this sort of mix up and this sort of mashup, often it is a very physical process of slicing images up, and then putting them together on a page. But you work with digital softwares and Photoshop, for example. I was wondering if you would borrow from that kind of terminology and describe your process as collaging, for example.
The Next Most Famous Artist
Oh, yeah, definitely. It's still, I think, the same, because you're still manipulating photos. It’s still a digital collage. There’s the process of masking the artworks, the figures, out of the background. That’s where I think the similarities come in from physically collaging and also using Photoshop.

The additional level to using Photoshop is that you're able to color correct a bit. A lot of art history pieces have a green hue to it. My first process was actually to warm it up. I think it's because of the pigment, and how it has aged over time. There's always a green hue. Whenever I put it together, that’s the first thing I do is actually to increase the warmth of it, and then it fits actually.

But I think the process of collaging — traditional collaging and the digital one — is almost the same. It's just that you get more control over the details and the pixels, like with the hair. I can make sure that it's edged top — a bit more proper than a cut.
Object Lessons Space
That's true, that’s true. A lot of your images can be described as being quite tongue in cheek, or if I may suggest, some of them can even be thought of as being quite campy, particularly in how it uses irony, how it juxtaposes, and its particular brand of aesthetic. How important would you say playfulness is to the sort of images you make?
The Next Most Famous Artist
At first, I thought that the beauty of the remixes is an important part of my work. But when I'm using social media as a platform, the relatability, and the fact that it's humorous, it becomes helpful when in the engagement of the audience.That's why I said just now, you can relate to the figures of the art history work. Other people can also do that. That’s why it's important for me that my work makes fun of different events in life that people are familiar with, and that people can also, after that, share their own stories relating to that story. That's why I feel that my works, some of them could be memeable. It's quite meme-like, and I'm okay with that.
Object Lessons Space
Yeah. Beyond it being a point where people can begin relating to the work, it also strikes me that you also probably have a lot of fun putting them together.
The Next Most Famous Artist
Oh, yeah. That's why I'm able to do it almost every day, because there's so many things, there's so many inspirations out there, so many stories to tell, so many issues out there. This process of digital collaging is just a framework. After that, I can explore everyday life, I can explore social issues like gender identity, sexuality, politics — I try to I try not to talk about politics — consumerism, bubble tea, and then people can just share it, and share their own stories behind it. I understand that the artist is known as a lone genius, but because of the meme structure, and also the structure of social media, there's this community creation narrative, like renarrating artworks, and also the participatory aspect, the participatory culture of it. It really makes the work come to life, you know? So it's not just an artwork in an art gallery. It's like this organic moving thing on social media. That’s how I see it.
Object Lessons Space
It’s so interesting that you bring in the language of memes. For the most part, a lot of what Instagram has allowed for is the sharing, and the resharing, of these images. A lot of why people enjoy images that are particularly humorous or ironic is because we're so familiar with memes, and we're so familiar with the currency and trading in the currency of memes.
The Next Most Famous Artist
It’s natural.
Object Lessons Space
Yeah, it's almost second nature to a lot of people. I was wondering whether you've come across any memes that have been made out of your works as well, and what some of your favorite ones are.
The Next Most Famous Artist
Oh my gosh. The problem with that is that it's so ephemeral, like they reshare with their stories. I can't really pinpoint any particular renarrating, but it's a lot of pieces that is #mood, you know? It’s like Monday blues, for example, sitting at the back of the bus, really low energy in the morning, and then people just say, “Walao, that's it, like this morning, cannot already. Cannot go to work already?” And for other people, it’s bubble tea, for example. There's so many responses from it. That's why it's an interesting medium for me to play around with, because I get to know a bit more about other people when they reshare it, and I can engage them directly on social media. There's this nice community where we can just chat with each other through DMs. It's fun.

[Editor’s Note: Walao is Singlish, and is a word used to describe disbelief or shock. Singlish is a colloquial, creole-based language used widely and casually in Singapore.]
Object Lessons Space
Instagram is so interesting as an image sharing platform, because in many ways, it has allowed artists, such as yourself, to get your work out there to people who might not, for various reasons, not have come into contact with it beforehand. It's such a democratic platform in that sense as well. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about your experiences with sharing your work on Instagram, for example. What do you enjoy, or maybe even dislike about, engaging with Instagram as a platform? Because it's obviously so multifaceted, and it's really something that has taken over the way we consume content today.
The Next Most Famous Artist
Obviously, I have Instagram to thank for, like, hello? Because that's where my art is living. But the problem, initially, was that it's so saturated with content. There's so many things happening. Actually, it was my boss who told me, “Hafiiz, your work is good. Can you please put in some money to boost your posts?” Initially, I was only getting less than a hundred likes, maybe less than fifty. Organic reach on social media is so low. You have to put in a bit of money to get it out there at first. Because of him, it just snowballed, thanks to that thirty dollars I put in into the post. So yeah, that was, yeah.
Object Lessons Space
The algorithms have also changed over time, and it obviously now prioritises paid advertisements and promotions over organic content. Has that impacted the way in which you think about your work, and how you're presenting it?
The Next Most Famous Artist
I try not to [let it] influence my work too much. I’m trying to think of myself as a free spirit, no boundary thing. But when I see my best work not getting the likes that I want, and then the works I put in the least effort, but getting the highest engagement, I second guess myself a bit. But then again, that's the game of social media. That’s just the structure of it. I can’t really help that aspect. But yeah.
Object Lessons Space
It is what it is.
The Next Most Famous Artist
It is what it is! I just have to keep creating, and that's the beauty of social media. And that's the beauty of social media art, because I don't have to create one work for months, and then wait for an exhibition. I can just do it daily, you know? And if it’s not last week's work that I'm proud of, next week will be better, you know?
Object Lessons Space
Something that I was really intrigued by is some of your recent images. Recently, I've noticed that your feed has switched things up a little bit.
The Next Most Famous Artist
Let me see, let me see. Yes?
Object Lessons Space
Yeah, with these images that incorporate these classic animated Disney movies that we all grew up with —
The Next Most Famous Artist
Oh, yes. Oh, so fun.
Object Lessons Space
— and figures from Japanese paintings and woodblock prints also. In some ways, even with you discussing your background in Asian art histories earlier, it feels like a whole entire return to that, but also like these forays into pop culture are incredibly interesting. Tell us about this set of images, and this particular direction that you're moving towards as well.
The Next Most Famous Artist
Well, this Disney/Ukiyo-e series was actually because of the problem I had with Asian art, using that for my original pieces, because most Asian art pieces are 2D. They're quite flat, and they won't mix well with my realistic photography. So then I thought, “Okay, I need to still use Asian art somehow”, you know, use my Masters for something, right? Then I realised, okay, I can use Disney scenes, and it just fits so nicely, because how you Ukiyo-e women, and how they were portrayed, and how beauty is being portrayed, is different from how beauty is portrayed in Disney. For Ukiyo-e, women, beauty is in the essence of the soul. Even though there’s nudity, you can respect that beauty. It's not pornographic at all. Then of course, when you see the western representation of women and gender in Disney, I thought that it could be a nice conversation piece between the women of the Japanese side as well as Disney. It was an easy transition for me to go from there using Disney art and Disney Princesses — or stepmothers — and Ukiyo-e women.
Object Lessons Space
Yeah. I was wondering if you're thinking of expanding that series into different cultural artworks as well. Japanese Ukiyo-e or Nihonga art pieces are very well known. Most people would know of artists such as Hokusai, for example, who's done these amazing woodblock prints that we're all also familiar with — we see on Uniqlo t-shirts, we see everywhere. Do you think you'll probably be interested in expanding it towards thinking about other cultures as well?
The Next Most Famous Artist
I’m interested in it if there's an availability of the artwork for me to use. Obviously all of this works are all on the public domain, except for Disney, that's only for entertainment purposes. Other than that, I cannot find a lot of Asian art works online. I would love to do something of my own culture.
Object Lessons Space
Yeah, that's so true. It raises such a huge point about digital access to museums and their art repositories, which I think a lot of museums have been stepping up with the pandemic, knowing that people can’t access their collections in real life now, and then really making an effort to photograph. A large part of your work, I imagine, rests on the fact that you need a high resolution image of the work.
The Next Most Famous Artist
Definitely, definitely. Yeah.
Object Lessons Space
That's something that hopefully, we'll see more open access coming around soon. But it's so true. We have such established archives and repositories of Western art historical paintings.
The Next Most Famous Artist
And it’s released. They released it in the public domain. The Met Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, all of them have released it. Obviously because they’ve reached the copyright limit, right, so obviously, they're free to use. But yeah, the Asian artists that I was able to use were the Ukiyo-e paintings and the Indian artist Raja Ravi Varma. Thankfully, and I'm still waiting for my own culture, you know?
Object Lessons Space
Fingers crossed. Soon.
The Next Most Famous Artist
I know. Before I die lah, hopefully.
Object Lessons Space
Not so long!
The Next Most Famous Artist
I'm actually waiting for the Surrealism period to be available.
Object Lessons Space
Ooh.
The Next Most Famous Artist
A lot of people are asking me to try Salvador Dalí, and other surrealists like Magritte, and all of those works. But they’re still — I can’t use it.
Object Lessons Space
Okay, soon. Soon, hopefully.
The Next Most Famous Artist
But definitely, there’s a future. I know there’s stuff for me to use.
Object Lessons Space
Even bringing it closer to home, if anyone from the Asian Civilisations Museum reaches out, or hears of your interest in this, they should ping you and get in touch.
The Next Most Famous Artist
Please, please! I’m dying to use Asian art, oh my gosh, please — statues, paintings, give it to me. I will do it.

I'll say something about social media, because you mentioned something about social media as a platform, right? And how people are digitising art. But I think some people are mixing up the digital art and art that has been digitised. I received this question before, I'm not going to say by who, but they were saying that because of COVID-19, a lot of artworks have been digitised for dissemination. What do you think is the future of digital art? There's a bit of confusion here, because my definition of digital art is using technology as a medium for you to question how technology is affecting our lives and our creative process, and not just as a platform to disseminate. That was an important thing that I needed to just throw in there.
Object Lessons Space
One other way of trying to phrase a question is: With COVID-19, a lot of us are spending a lot more time either encountering art or content, creative content, via digital means. This could be the internet, this could be social media. More than the dissemination of art and general access to archives, maybe another way to think about this is, perhaps, in your perspective, how do you think this sort of shift in the way we encounter things will change tone for the sort of art that's being produced? Maybe a pivot towards more digital things, for example. Where do you see things shifting or moving towards?
The Next Most Famous Artist
Yes, that’s a nicely put question. Are you asking me that now?
Object Lessons Space
Yes!
The Next Most Famous Artist
I was just wrapping my head around that question. The thing is that it's not just a platform. It becomes a medium for artistic innovation, you see. All these structures of social media there for you. People like to see it as just stats for you to gain likes, but there’s this participatory element here that can really add some dimension to the art. It becomes this contemporary laboratory for artists to play with. So that's my angle, where I see social media not just as a platform, but as a medium.
Object Lessons Space
In particular, there are a lot of people whose practices are primarily quite physical in nature. They do have this element of audience participation or interaction, but it's very much premised on a face-to-face encounter, or an in-person meeting. We've seen that, particularly with all these pivots towards the digital, that there are a lot of shifts.

But at the same point in time, I think we can’t really discount the fact that there is still a place and there's a space for this physical in-person, face-to-face thing.
The Next Most Famous Artist
Oh yeah, we still need it.
Object Lessons Space
Yeah, we hundred percent still do. There's this huge human connection element that can be replicated with the online. This is something that I’ve noticed as well, because a lot of what I've also seen you sharing about is the fact that you've been making available some of your artworks as prints, as well, as physical prints, and it's obviously been inhabiting the houses of so many people who enjoy your works as well. How do you see your works taking on another life, when they move from the frontier of the digital into the physical, when it's held in the hands of somebody? How do you think about that relationship between the physical and the digital, especially within the context of some of the prints that you've been making available as well.
The Next Most Famous Artist
The thing is, once my work is on the public domain, it's not my work anymore. I mean, it starts with me, but after that, it goes on and takes on a new life, or other people. I have no issue with it. It has become their work, and I’d like it to be their work because they are paying for something that really suits them, for something that means something to them. So it's important that the essence of them is still there, but obviously, with my name signed on it, of course.

That's how I see it from social media to offline, but I don't necessarily want to see my art physically in a gallery, you know? My aim is to actually free them from the sacred walls of galleries, free them from the boundaries of frames, obviously not anymore when it's framed up and physical, but I was trying to avoid that — that art should be seen in a gallery, or the white cube, you know? The sacred, holy white cube of galleries and museums. That's why for Singapore Art Week, we have the Bus.Stop.Art. I’m collaborating with other artists, and we’re putting up works in unconventional spaces. That's where I feel that my art should go to, offline. I know it shouldn't just stay online. There has to be conversion from offline to online, but that's the direction I'm going. That's how I would want my works to be.
Object Lessons Space
This idea of maybe slightly less conventional, or less traditional, spaces for viewing art is so interesting. I was wondering if you can tell us a little bit more about the work you're presenting as part of Singapore Art Week, particularly maybe just give us a little teaser or taster of what we can expect?
The Next Most Famous Artist
Well, essentially it's about bringing art down to public art and where lives are actually moving around the most, where there's a lot of commuting and all that. That's where we want to put art out. And also, obviously, we want to make sure that art is not just being trapped in galleries, museums, and it's also there for everyone to enjoy, for the masses, the public, and not just for the highbrow artists, you know, just looking at artworks in our gallery for one hour. It’s all about bringing it down, and making it accessible, especially when people are not really going to museums and galleries too often, you know?
Object Lessons Space
It's been such a ride for yourself, just thinking about the ways that the project has moved, how it has shapeshifted, and how it's also grown into this whole entire new organism of its own. Looking back, and if you could just take a walk down memory lane, what will you say or point out as being like an incredibly memorable experience for yourself? When you think about the project, and something that was incredibly rewarding, what comes to mind for you?
The Next Most Famous Artist
Like a pivotal moment in my The Next Most Famous Artist project?
Object Lessons Space
Yeah. It could be something that really struck you as being either really defining in terms of how it really shaped the way you thought about things, or it could just have been a really rewarding encounter you had with somebody who really enjoyed your work.
The Next Most Famous Artist
I think I realised the potential of my work on social media when people are sharing the stories. That's when I realised that it's not just about me, you know? Artists, sometimes, we think, “It's about my heart. I’m just putting it out there. It's just me.” But I realised it's not just that, because I'm using the stories, I'm using real-day experiences that other people should have the — maybe not the right lah — but have the authority to make them their own stories as well. When I got these messages, and resharing, and comments, and how they’re telling their own stories, I realised that there's potential to that. When they're interested in buying the print, that's like another level of flattery.

Oh, another level of flattery is, I will say — LASALLE [College of the Arts], one of the lecturers — you saw right? They put my work up on their lecture slides, and you’re talking about work in an educational setting leh. Do you know how different that is for me as a feature? It’s not just a magazine. It's like sharing it to the new brains.
Object Lessons Space
Knowledge sharing.
The Next Most Famous Artist
Yeah, and the students, they even do it as an assignment. I'm like, oh my gosh, that's like, that's 100% dot com dot sg flattery, you know? That’s a pivotal moment. When you're talking about the creation of the canon, right, it's not just about how many works you sell, but the reputation of the works, how they’re being talked about, and how I was compared to Martha Rosler, another digital collagist — I'm not sure whether I got that label correct — but that was an honor. Like, seriously.
Object Lessons Space
It's also, as you say, it’s one thing to reference the canon, but another thing to be generative in some way, right? That’s huge.
The Next Most Famous Artist
The students — I don't want to say that the students were inspired, so I’m adding quotation marks here — were “inspired” by my own work, and they created their own versions of it. It’s exactly what I live for, you know, the democratization of creativity and using whatever means that they have to create stories, to tell issues that are close to them, and then it just becomes a thing on its own, you know? Oh, amazing. Oh, love it.
Object Lessons Space
There's beautiful actually, that's such a beautiful anecdote. Thanks for sharing that. We've spent some time talking about the interface between the physical and the digital for yourself, and also the project that you're working on for Singapore Art Week, but if I could really just wrap up our conversation with one final question. With more than ten thousand followers, what's next for The Next Most Famous Artist? What's in store? What are you excited about?
The Next Most Famous Artist
I'm definitely excited for Singapore Art Week, because it's not just Bus.Stop.Art, there’s something happening that I can’t say, but I’m definitely going to try — okay, I can’t say it, I can’t say lah, but it's definitely exciting.

Definitely the future of The Next Most Famous Artist is to question the role of the artist itself. That’s why my recent series was Self Worth, where I just created works based on the desperation of The Next Most Famous Artist, a.k.a. myself. That's where I'm going. Whatever knowledge I'm learning, I'm using it for my art, you know? That's why I love art history so much, that's why I love learning about other artworks, because they inspire me to develop something new, or the skills I get from advertising. Whatever I go through in life, it contributes to my art somehow.
♪ Podcast jingle ♪
Object Lessons Space
The Next Most Famous Artist explores different artworks and mediums while spotlighting various social issues and highlighting the beauty of everyday life.

We’ve been talking to Hafiiz about his digital collages and image making practice. To see these works for yourself, check out his work on Instagram, @thenextmostfamousartist.

Thankyou so much for spending time with us today. We had a lot of fun with this conversation, and I hope you’ve enjoyed tuning in. You can find more articles and transcripts from these podcast episodes on our website, www.objectlessons.space.

We also have a presence on all the usual social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. If you like our work, we do have a Patreon page that you can check out as well.

Mushroomed is a podcast series hosted by Object Lessons Space, and produced in collaboration with the wonderful people at Singapore Community Radio. We’ll see you again next month!



 
Mushroomed is a series of conversations around art making, artistic networks and ecosystems. Sit in on conversations with artists and cultural practitioners. This podcast is hosted by the Singapore-based online platform, Object Lessons Space, and produced in collaboration with Singapore Community Radio.


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