Hamra Abbas' artistic practice draws from a myriad of sources and takes a diversity of forms. Her works originate from encounters and experiences - an image, icon or gesture - that are manipulated by the artist transforming its scale, function or medium. Her intention is to deconstruct the act of seeing by recreating images that form part of a collective memory. Unrestrained by subject matter or media, she takes an investigative approach to produce a diverse and holistic body of work addressing notions of cultural history, sexuality, violence, ornamentation, devotion and faith.
In the last few years Abbas’s primary investigation – as seen in her two exhibitions at the gallery –has been to employ the visual language of religion and contemporary acts of devotion to address transformation and individual experience within a changing society. Following a long stretch shuttling between her hometown Lahore and Boston, her recent move back to Lahore has influenced her work, now directly relating to her distinct experiences and observations of middle-class religious practices in homes and public spaces.
Abbas was born in Kuwait in 1976. She received her BFA and MA in Visual Arts from the National College of Arts, Lahore in 1999 and 2002 respectively before going on to the Universitaet der Kuenste in Berlin where she did the Meisterschueler in 2004.
Abbas has exhibited in numerous solo exhibitions including at Lahore Art Gallery, Pakistan, 2018; Colour, Canvas gallery, Karachi, Pakistan, 2017; Bodies, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, UAE, 2016; But Can You Show this in Pakistan? PILOT, Istanbul, Turkey, 2015; Kaaba Picture as a Misprint, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, UAE, 2014; Wall Hanging I, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA, USA, 2013; Hamra Abbas, Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai, India, 2012; City and the Everyday, PILOT, Istanbul, Turkey, 2012; Idols, Canvas, Karachi, Pakistan, 2012; and Cities, Green Cardamom, London, UK, 2011.
She has taken part in group shows including: Art Dubai Contemporary, with Lawrie Shabibi, UAE, 2018; Lahore Biennale, Pakistan, 2018; Global Control and Censorship, Galeria Arsenal, Bialystok, Poland, 2017; Karachi Biennale, Karachi, Pakistan, 2017; Sanctuary, FOR- SITE Foundation, San Francisco, USA, 2017-2018; Insights, Art Basel Hong Kong, with Lawrie Shabibi, 2017; The Making of an Institution, NTU CCA, Singapore, 2017; Text Edit, Mannhattan Bridge Anchorage, Brooklyn, New York, USA, 2016 ; Accademia di Brera, Milan, Italy, 2016; And Nothing but the Truth: Parrhesia II, KOEL Gallery, Karachi, Pakistan, 2015; Art Dubai Contemporary, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, UAE, 2015; Whorled Explorations, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kochi Island, India, 2014; UNTITLED Art Fair, with Lawrie Shabibi and Copperfield gallery, Miami Beach, FL, USA, 2014; The Shade of the Moon, Changwon Sculpture Biennale, South Korea, 2014; The Importance of Staying Quiet, Yallay Gallery, Hong Kong, 2014; Censorship, The 7th Move on Asia, Alternative Space Loop, Seoul, South Korea, 2014; ALL ABOUT THESE... LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, Soma Mexico DF, Mexico City, Mexico, 2014; LIEBE / LOVE, Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany, 2014; The 2013 deCordova Biennial, Lincoln, MA, USA, 2013; Echoes: Islamic Art and Contemporary Artists, Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, Kansas, USA, 2013; SIGNS TAKEN IN WONDER: Searching for Contemporary Istanbul, MAK Vienna, Austria, 2013; The Collectors Show: Chimera, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, 2012; Medi(t)ation, Asian Art Biennial, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan, 2011; Home Spun, Devi Art Foundation, Gurgaon, India, 2011; Everyday Miracles (Extended), Walter and McBean Galleries, SFAI, California, USA, 2011; and Sympathy for the Devil, Vanhaerents Art Collection, Brussels, Belgium, 2011.
She is the recipient of the Jury prize at Sharjah Biennial 9, the Abraaj Capital Art Prize in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Jameel Prize in 2009.
Her works are part of notable international public collections including the Burger Collection, Hong Kong; Vanhaerents Art Collection, Brussels, Belgium; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas, USA; Kadist Collection, Paris, France; British Museum, London, UK; Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, UAE; Devi Art Foundation, Gurgaon, India; Kiran Nader Museum of Art, New Delhi, India; Art In Embassies Collection, USA; Koç Foundation, Istanbul, Turkey and Borusan Contemporary Art Collection, Istanbul, Turkey.
Abbas currently lives and works between Lahore and Boston.