Exploring The Southeast Asian Art Scene: Zaheera Hashim

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There was no shortage of art stimulus as the New Year unfolded in Singapore with Singapore Art Week, Art Stage and Singapore Contemporary amongst the list of art fairs and weekend happenings.

This year the lights seemed to shine on South East Asian art and the fairs played an important role in showcasing the diverse styles of South East Asian artists, bringing the individual regional art markets together into a single bloc to compete with the more established markets of Greater China and the West.

But the “art awakening” in South East Asia is not just about big names and fancy galleries. It’s about making art accessible to everyone. Its not just about investing in “art objects” but investing in an “art scene”, investing in a culture that is fertile for creativity and that encourages artists to be brave about showcasing their ideas and investing in infrastructure that allows for the masses to actively participate in this scene.

In our exploration of this new art scene we discovered the works of Zaheera Hashim, a corporate attorney who has been painting for a number of years and first-time exhibitor at the Singapore Affordable Art Fair in November 2016.

The Sameness of Being by Zaheera

FR: What inspired you to start painting and sculpting?
ZH: I’m not one to say I’m “inspired” to paint this or that but rather I’m “drawn” (no pun intended) to paint as I grapple to understand what I see or how I feel about certain things For me, it is a necessary outlet as I try to make sense of my own perceptions. Of course I don’t always publish what I draw … and probably thank goodness for that!

FR: Where do you find ideas for your art pieces?
ZH: From the music I hear, the stories I read. I’m fortunate to be able to travel both for work and pleasure and often the ideas come as I go on that journey. Often the journey is more internal than external. Ideas also come from the interactions I have with people around me. The tension between differing views and sensorial stimuli always make for interesting content.

Sculpture – “Ohana”

FR: Do you think the South East Asian art market is forgiving?
ZH: I don’t think any art market is forgiving. Having said that though the South East Asian market is relatively young and the young usually get away with many things. Then again, as an artist you’re not going in asking for forgiveness… so you really shouldn’t care anyway.

FR: What is this about? It looks a bit like a mess, albeit an organized kind of mess.

ZH: It does, doesn’t it? It’s titled “Deconstruction, Reconstructing”. As media and social network fill our screens daily with images of devastation and human displacement, someone like me sitting in the comfort of my canvas cannot but feel sad, yet grateful. So many precious lives, young lives, mindlessly destroyed everyday in war or natural disaster. Something colorful turns dirty grey, and solitary, in a flash. Deconstruction. The childlike architectural drawings, on the other hand, represent the re-construction of lives. In times of adversity, we find a part of us we never knew we had – the quiet resilience to rebuild what we’ve lost.


FR: What is your next art project?
ZH: That’s always a hard one. I’ve been working on my book for awhile now, aptly it’s titled ‘Lost’ and I think it’s been lost in all that time I’ve taken to write & illustrate the pages. I’m also collaborating with a musician friend to bring to life a performance cum visual interpretation of musical ideas but that’s still sitting in the idea box. In the meantime I’m putting together a portfolio of abstract paintings called ‘Burst’ …nothing too deeply philosophical … viewers can decide what’s bursting (or not). So yes, “next” will show up when it shows up.


About the Artist

Zaheera Hashim is an in-house Counsel with 20 years legal practice. She studied literature, philosophy and law at the National University of Singapore and University of London, respectively. When work started to lose its appeal, as it does for many of us apparently, she went back to school and was a part time Western Art and Sculpture student at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. Click here to view more of Zaheera’s artwork.