Hosh media’s Sahar Habib Ghazi gets up-close with 24-year-old Summaiya Jillani, the Karachi-based artist behind the ‘Pakistani Marilyn Monroe’ painting, which became viral on social media websites recently.
Hosh Media: An image of the painting received hundreds of shares and likes in a few hours on Facebook and Twitter. Were you expecting such a response on social media?
Summaiya Jillani: I was expecting a lot from this painting, but the response that I received in just one day exceeded all expectations. People know me as a very non-ambitious person and they keep telling me that I always underrate myself by always being over-surprised at the response to my work, so you can imagine how stunned I must have been. My Facebook inbox has gone berserk. Every two seconds, I receive messages from people from different places. The number of times this one picture has been shared in one day is almost magical.
I have always been open to the Internet as it has brought me many commissions (work). I think social media rocks! You can become a star in no time. All you need is something original to say or show and … voila.
HM: How would you describe the Marilyn piece titled,‘Baar baar dekho, hazaar baar dekho’? SJ: I don’t want to sound pompous about my work, so I will simply quote what other people have been saying about it. For those who are aware of art, it is like a new Pakistani Warhol. Elders love it because its taking them back to their times, while young kids love it for its vibrancy. Mature youngsters are all for it because of its witty sensuality. And I love it for being universally attractive.
HM: What compelled you to give Marilyn Monroe’s iconic racy pose a Pakistani makeover, what’s your larger message behind the piece? SJ: This is not the first time that I gave Marilyn this makeover. I have done this earlier as well, in 2010, during my thesis days. And then, it was not only Marilyn, but with her was an equally celebrated male hunk of her time, James Dean with a “beeri” stuck in his mouth, giving his look a very “local tapori” touch.
As far as the message is concerned, I never try too hard to forcefully foster my work with some deep meaning. Being very honest, all I care about is the “bang,” I want my work to give to the viewers. That is my main intention and then its up to the people whatever they like to extract conceptually out of my paintings. And one can see my paintings substantiating my intentions very clearly as they just hit both the masses and the elites instantly.
HM: Was the piece a part of a larger collection? SJ: This piece was part of a huge group show, which opened at the VM Art Gallery in Karachi on the June 4, 2012. I exhibited only two pieces in the show so it is not really a part of some bigger body of work by me.
HM: What is the inspiration behind your artistic style? SJ: There are many inspirations. I keep on surfing through the Internet all the time studying great painters of our times. Artists belonging to the impressionism epoch were my main inspiration initially regarding the technique for using paints. Then gradually I moved forward and started taking inspiration from some living masters of our times like Belinda Eaton, Francoise Nielly, Alexa Meade (although she’s almost my age she’s doing a great job with paints) and a few more using paint very boldly. Young Pakistani artists that really inspire me a lot include Samar Zaidi from Karachi University, Sausan Saulat and a few more crazies like them.
The ethnic touch in my work is part of my upbringing and also a matter of personal preference. I have always had a proclivity for “desi” things and the indigenous colors of Pakistan. It is a blessing to have a rich cultural background as a native of some place. I find it very easy to bring out the Pakistani feel in my work just by being true to the colours we get to see in our every-day routine. Living in a country like this is truly an inspiration for producing such works, where nothing is too basic and plain. Textures and colours play an important role and these two things are to be found everywhere around us; from a cracked door to a rusted bicycle to a vibrantly coloured overcrowded bus and so on.