Up, close and personal with Hafsa Idrees

By Maheen Ahmed

Hafsa Idrees is a talented Pakistani artist who lives in Germany. She is well known for painting with her fingers, using bright and bold colors and having the cutest animals in her work.

In a brief encounter with ILS magazine she talks about her career and success. Following are the excerpts:

  • Why do you paint?

When I look outside, and even if it’s a grey boring day, I see colour all over the place. Even if it’s a just brown tree trunk, I see crimson, white, dark purple, black and all sorts of browns intertwined. I imagine little paintings everywhere.

They swirl around and jump up at me. So, I paint them, and I love to see how profoundly my imagination and interpretation can move me and others. And as I paint, I feel my visual experience gets richer, deeper and fuller. My painting is a response to the tastes, images, voices, and touches I see and feel.

  • You have a unique way of painting as well, you finger paint. How did you come to do this?

I used to paint as a hobby and experimented with acrylics, water colours etc. but last year as the lockdown begin due to Covid-19, I wanted to try something new, something challenging, simply because I had a lot of time. As the shops were closed, I could not get the brushes when I wanted to paint so I limited myself to painting with fingertips only.

I loved feeling the paint, it was like clay and I could mold and manipulate it to create special textures.

Then I looked into finger-painting and found out that there aren’t many fingerpainters who have dedicated their art careers to finger-painting only and it motivated me to continue because I think it is one of the simplest and most fun techniques (though currently, I sometimes do a combination of brush and finger-painting).

  • What and who are your inspirations?

Its funny how our brain sees and perceives things differently. I feel inspired by anything and everything. On dark gloomy days, I find myself painting a lot of rain-related compositions and on happy days I get inspired by colorful landscapes but all in all, nature for me is the best reference and inspiration. Be it under water or above water.

My colour pallete is inspired by Marc Chagall mainly and style (impressionism) by Klimt, Van Gogh, Monet, Iris and Renoir.

  • How do you feel about the art scene in Germany, how does it compare to Pakistan?

Art scene in Germany is very different from Pakistan simply because of the special history Germany has. It’s very dynamic, progressive and in some ways “free” because due to cultural and religious restrictions, artists in Pakistan don’t get that freedom to express themselves that artists in Germany may have.

It has to be culturally appropriate and socially approved and many Pakistani artists struggle with that because art has no limits or boundaries, and it is subjective.

There is nothing wrong with it, but it puts the German art scene on a completely different spectrum.

Also, the idea of investing in an original art piece gets off the table when most people struggle with fulfilling their basic human needs (in Pakistan), which is not commonplace in Germany. People want to own originals especially from emerging artists, to both invest in and to support.

  • You use a lot animals in your work, why is that?

Yes, I do, and I am fascinated by the eyes. They are so magical! For a long time, it has been a common narrative in the artworld that animals are not serious subjects, and that they don’t belong in galleries.

They are limited to personal pet paintings and commissions only and I want to change that narrative.

That’s why I paint animals, I use colours which are not existing in nature and usually paint closeups on large canvases because to me they are serious and as beautiful as a landscape.

  • What’s the hard part of being an artist?

I think the hardest part these days is getting your work out there. It is encouragement and feedback that work as fuel for an artist.

With technology and so many platforms, one might think the possibilities are endless and one click can introduce the art to the world. That might be true but there is a strong possibility of getting drowned in the

ocean of millions of other artists who are using the internet to market themselves and promote their work.

To stand out is not easy, because there are so many talented artists and ever-changing algorithms of social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc. it is difficult to limit and to control the reach if one doesn’t understand them. This can really make artists question their creative skills because they simply do not get noticed as they had hoped, but it is not their skill/subjects that is the problem.

  • What do you do for fun?

I go out for a walk by the river, which is nearby or listen to music for fun.

What’s the next big thing for you?

Getting back to normal and being able to go to exhibitions, museums and galleries. I have tickets for famous “Van Gogh’s Alive” luminous multisensory exhibition and it will be a big thing for me to be finally able to feel his work all over me, all around me.

  1. Excellent article. Hafsa is not just a talented artist with her own style, but both intellectual and authentic.

  2. I’ve bought three of her originals. The first was a commissioned painting of my late brother. The second was of her work titled “ Rainbow Baby”, and the third of “Dog with a stick”.

    I never bought a real piece of art until I met Hafsa, via Facebook. She also wrote a book when she was 18, which I bought on Kindle and thoroughly enjoyed.

    She inspires me to do something, to do better, and to be kind!

  3. You are so interesting and creative. Your work is so unique and inspired by your personality. Dian, Kris McCraw’s mother.

  4. I am totally and completely awestruck by Hafsa, her art leaves me speechless in a way Ive never been. Honestly. Her style evokes my biggest thoughts from the smallest corners of life, some tragically, almost entirely forgotten. This is inspiring. I thank her for this. Her art is more than words can tell or explain….it stops me in my tracks, and beckons me-up on my toes, peering over for more of her genius. Her creations are personal. Her brilliance shines, and beckons me to know more of what inspires, what drives her and her own visions. That were once locked in mind until she chooses to unleash them in the most fabulous & awesome of forms. Fingerpainting, what a smart move my dear. Bravo!- I gather your intelligence and authenticity is unmistaken. I see that over & again in this article of you. So well spoken. Its quite refreshing. And please someone let me knw the name of the book she has also written…I can google and hopefully find. I look forward to each next article of her, just as I do each next piece she’ll create. So exciting. I wonder do your brilliant fingers ever feel tired painting in this way? I like others also pray the magic in your mind and skill in your hands never leave you, for all of the world would be at great misfortune if so…..Thank you for being an inspiration to us all.

  5. Hafsa is a jewel ~ she has lifted my old, old soul to beautiful heights . I feel so alive when I view her incredible works of art. Her talent has no bounds. I believe she is held in the arms of invisible spirits that we cannot fathom; and in turn introduces us to mindfulness, beauty & yes, humor thru her incredible art.

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