This piece originally appeared in the Strand Magazine's 2021 Spring Issue.
When we imagine our post-pandemic world - what social, political, and economic landscape do we see? Visions of crowded streets, bustling bars, and thrumming nightlife; a synesthesia of grit, glamour, and nostalgia that will inevitably arise out of a year spent in lockdown. It’s the common intention to return to life in 20s with the same vigour that was immortalised by the great writers and artists a century before. Where creativity leads, the world surely follows, and so I wondered who (and what medium) would be at the forefront of the roaring decade to come.
Meet Alya Hatta - 21, an artist and creative visionary in London. She uses the medium of paint, canvas, video, audio design, and 3D software to create her colourful visual landscapes and population simulations. In last summer’s Dazed x New Gen Gap campaign, Alya’s work was shortlisted out of hundreds of entries; joining a cohort of six visual artists who were then commissioned to create a unique series of work which reinterpreted GAP products. The campaign called for artists to respond to this question brief: “How is your world changing post-2020?”, and Alya’s response was bold, innovative, and refreshingly self-satirical. “Whatever it is”, a surrealist dance animation, is a sensory concoction of colour, robotic dance moves, and cubic clothing - so, basically, most of our Instagram feeds right now. Humour aside, Alya’s response is intended to be deeply critical of our increased dependence on the internet. She told Dazed that in the video, the Covid-compliant group of 5 figures dancing, “perform to elicit a satirical and false sense of unity and positivity that is heavy in today’s online and offline atmosphere.”
We must then question, not only what our landscape will look like, but what kind of agents we will be in inhabiting it. What will be our communal personality? Will there be a homogenisation of art, visual imagery. and social-culture? —admittedly a destination we are slowly seeing social media creep towards day by day.
I asked Alya these questions, as we connected last December to talk about her journey as a multi-medium artist, creative, and art student. We spoke about identity, comparison culture in the art community, and how our new digital world is making art more accessible.
['Hieronymus Bosch but its the year 3000 and he's an Asian Woman (me)' (2020) by Alya Hatta
Simulation Still | Medium: Generative Simulation (Made with Unity)]
Description: The work is a direct response to living through the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic. The simulation is random and chaotic and works to no end with an emphasis on a sense of impending doom, the spontaneous aesthetics and the sound created from it.
Q: Tell me about the start of your journey as an artist – how did you get started? What medium did you use?
Alya: I started very young, when my mum used to send me to art classes. So I was born in Malaysia, but I grew up in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, London, Indonesia — all over the place! I properly started doing art in Malaysia due to the nature of my GCSE and A-Level art course where we started off with realism, painting, oil-painting, and then it kind of grew from there! When I came here to England, I had no real concept of what conceptual or fine art was. I was so used to following a particular formula that I learnt in school, and when I did my foundation year. It was very difficult for me to adjust to that kind of painting.