The beauty of pop art is that it can tackle heavy-loaded subjects at ease, engaging the viewer with complicated ideas that otherwise might deter them. Blurring the boundaries between “high” art and “low” culture, noble art and commercial art, pop art also has the ability the speak the language of the “common” man, inviting them into the sacred gallery space.
Case in point: Maria Qamar’s pop art. Inspired by pop art’s wonder boy, Roy Lichtenstein, Qamar adopts comic book iconography to create dramatic portraits of South Asian people that communicate between them through snappy dialogue bubbles.
A first-generation Canadian, Qamar’s mother is Indian and her father is Bangladeshi. The family moved to Canada when she was nine, and Qamar openly talks about the hardships of being an immigrant, which included enduring constant bullying and racism.
Her work is first and foremost aimed at a South Asian audience and is meant to resonate with the Desi community at large, particularly the second generation. “I’m neither here nor there,” said Qamar in an interview with the Cut, relaying her experience as a South Asian millennial. “I’m not either Desi or Western, I’m both.”
This duality is present by her choice of medium, which is influenced by the art of Roy Lichtenstein as well as Indian soap operas. “I’m an extremely emotional person,” says Qamar. “It’s why I gravitate so much towards Indian soap operas. The tears and the crying and the drama in my work is also inspired by Roy Lichtenstein.”
Scroll down to see some recent work of hers.