As a designer with a passion for storytelling, Hazem’s work tries to raise awareness, provoke action, expose assumptions, and question the unknown
I have been always passionate about art since I was very young. I grew up watching Disney movies, Pixar’s iconic animated classics such as A Bugs Life and the Toy Story series, and these films propelled me towards seeking art, not only as a hobby, but as a career.
Being a male art student in an all-boys school was often frowned upon, and it was not an easy journey to endure. The discipline of fine arts was not a path that a male student would consider pursuing
But being a male art student in an all-boys school was often frowned upon, and it was not an easy journey to endure. The discipline of fine arts was not a path that a male student would consider pursuing. I was often bullied because of my passion for art, but never did I take it so negatively that it would cause a setback in my career as an artist.
While most male students would be playing football, I would prefer to be in a quiet place, like the library, where I would be searching for inspiration. I took the negativity as an impetus to turn the tide by creating, breaking the stereotype, and by encouraging others to understand and accept art as a discipline, and showcasing my artistic journey.
I wanted to pursue fine arts in school, and so, my parents wholeheartedly supported my decision to move me to a school where fine arts was offered as a course. In the new school, I was so relieved to be in an environment that was more accepting of the arts – be it fine arts, film making, or other media disciplines.
The art studio in my new school was massive, which throughout the two years that I was there, became a common hangout spot for me and my friends. We would spend time painting and practicing after school hours.
As the only art student in my second year, I received much praise from students and faculty for my work. I felt empowered and respected.
After graduating high school, I wanted to enroll in the National College of Fine Arts – the most iconic art college in Lahore, Pakistan – but life had chosen a different path for me. I ended up applying to VCUArts Qatar where I received a scholarship and moved to Qatar. This was the first time that I would be living alone. It has been the most fulfilling and satisfying experience of my artistic career.
Unfortunately, the society I come from in Pakistan has a long way to go in terms of understanding and developing a sensibility to art and art-based careers – where they need to stop comparing all fields to the sciences, engineering, and medicine
Unfortunately, the society I come from in Pakistan has a long way to go in terms of understanding and developing a sensibility to art and art-based careers – where they need to stop comparing all fields to the sciences, engineering, and medicine.
Artists and designers play a pivotal role in society. They are the agents of creative change, more often the invisible voice that acts as a bridge through their work to cultivate change and raise a voice.
As artists and designers, it is important to stay true to ourselves, our values, beliefs, and subjects that excite us. I want to use my work as a catalyst for social change, and to promote important controversial topics that are contemporary, socially, and political relevant in Pakistan as well as around the world.
I enjoy exploring themes that are socially conscious and reflective of the society and the world we are living in. Hailing from Pakistan provides me with a unique vantage point which I summarize through this question: If everything around is a result of what has been, how can we imagine all that could have been? My work grapples with the bleakness of what is, and laces it with a layer of hope in the form of what could have been.
Most of my works have been inspired by the rich culture, the multi-layered, and socio-dynamic life in Pakistan, and recently my work has been focused on visually speculating the future of Pakistan – the new Pakistan embracing technology, diversity, peace, and working towards better human rights.
And in my journey of developing my own artistic style, I have learnt that “the process” is the most crucial part of any art or design process – to accept the fact that as an artist I will fail numerous times to be able to reach the place I want to be at.
Whenever I have successfully created a piece of art, there has been a sense of excitement and fear, as well. I am never sure of how the audience might react to my art. I think this sense of fear is crucial to the success of art. No art or design work is complete without mixed or negative criticism or difference of opinions.
And it is this excitement that pushes me to keep creating art that collectively explores new expressions and allows people to interpret it in their own way.
Hazem Asif is an interdisciplinary graphic designer and digital illustrator from Lahore, Pakistan, and an alumnus of Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, a partner university of Qatar Foundation.
With the assistance of Qatar Foundation and the MFA department at VCUArts Qatar, Hazem has exhibited internationally and locally in group exhibitions such as at Dubai Design Week (2017), Tehran Annual Digital Art Exhibition (2017), The Modern Prayer Rug Exhibition in Richmond Virginia (2018), and Kraftwerk, Berlin – Germany (2018). As a VCUArts alumnus, he has also participated in the World Bank exhibition in Islamabad, Pakistan (2019), and most recently visited and exhibited in Paris, France in January 2020, in collaboration with Qatar Museums – Years of Culture.