ARTIST TO WATCH: Hatecopy

Hatecopy is the brainchild of Toronto based artist Maria Qamar whose Roy Lichtenstein inspired pop art brings all things #DesiStruggles to life with a hilarious and refreshing honesty. If you read through the comments section of any one of her drawings on the @Hatecopy instagram account, it is obvious that the platform has not only earned her widespread recognition, but has drawn together an international community of young Desis who find her work infinitely relatable.

Inspired by Indian soap operas as much as her personal experiences, Hatecopy doesn’t shy away from depicting the less positive social realities facing first and second generations. Her work captures struggles such as marriage-obsessed parents, interracial dating, and cultural appropriation.  I spoke with Maria about her creative process and success so far. 

Image credit: Hatecopy

Image credit: Hatecopy

How did the concept of ‘Hatecopy’ start?  
Hatecopy started as a self-promotional account so I could sell myself to advertising agencies as a copywriter who didn’t care about copywriting. I still don’t. Before pursuing art full-time I worked in various advertising agencies, writing commercials and billboard ads for big brands. You’d have probably seen them all across Canada without even knowing it was me.

Why do you think you were drawn to pop art in particular? 
When I was young I started drawing my ideal life into little comic strips, and that’s why pop art was a natural fit for me. It helps me to communicate what’s in my head without any limitations. Right now I feel like I’ve gone back to doing what I loved as a kid, and there’s something comforting about that.

What do you draw from most when coming up with new concepts? 
I draw from phrases and expressions I’ve gathered from growing up with my aunties, my mother and various Indian movies and soaps. It’s my way of connecting with a past that I had let go when I moved to the west. 

Your pieces really resonate with people and I think it’s because they capture experiences that are so common yet aren’t entirely positive or openly acknowledged. Do you make a conscious effort to touch on certain issues? I never consciously create work thinking it will resonate with people; I create things I have experienced or witnessed in my early childhood and current day. Most of the time it feels like we’ve all seen the same things, just from different perspectives. Anything that is taboo or not entirely positive is just a reality I had experienced and felt that I needed to share with others. 

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in establishing yourself as an artist? 
Fear is the largest obstacle I’ve had to face and continue to face today.  It’s the fear of letting others down. When transitioning from a corporate job to a place where I needed to hustle for myself, I had to continually remind myself that doing what makes me happy should be a priority, and there is nothing to regret about that. 

Image credit: Hatecopy

Image credit: Hatecopy

What has been your proudest moment so far?
My proudest moment is always looking back at my paintings right after they’ve been varnished. Every time I look at a finished product it makes me feel like I’ve added something to the world that could mean as much to someone else as it does to me. 

Speaking of proud moments, can we talk about THE ELLE CANADA COVER?!! I’m not even Canadian but seeing that cover really felt like a MOMENT, a mile stone. What was that experience like? *  
I’m very shy normally, but I felt very comfortable to be around Ebony, Lilly, and the crew at Elle. It felt natural for three women of colour to just get together and glam up for a shoot. The impact of that shoot is much more significant than your average cover because it’s showing that you don’t need to be some waify white woman to get a magazine cover. The women I have the honour of being on this cover with are artistic geniuses in their own fields, and I think Canada—and also the rest of the world—should get used to seeing our faces.

There seems to a collective of young women in Canada especially, that are reappropriating and representing a new generation of South Asian culture and really starting to gain international recognition. What's it like to be a part of that? Do you ever feel pressure to be representative because of the lack of South Asian female presence in creative industries?
I'm honoured to be a part of such an important movement that helps South Asian culture exist alongside Western culture, because it accurately represents who I am as a person and a young creative.
I don't feel that pressure, since I think the community as a whole is speaking out, so it doesn't just fall on my shoulders. South Asian creatives are growing in numbers, and as long as we continue to demand the same exposure that's afforded to artists that Western society understands, it's only a matter of time until our presence grows. 

How important has social media been for you in terms of building a platform and an audience for your work?
It's where it all got started. I got discovered thanks to Instagram, so I can't imagine where I would be without it. It's a great discovery tool that allows young artists to be disruptive and allows our work to be seen outside of the typical establishments like art galleries. 

Anything else we can look out for in 2016? 
I want to eventually end up on the other side of the planet with a few of my paintings, so hopefully an exhibition overseas. I’m working on a book and other hilarious collaborations. I’m actually laughing just thinking about them. 

*ICYMI Maria was featured alongside Lilly Singh (Superwoman) and Ebony (Wondagurl) on the March 2016 Cover of Elle Canada.