- Hyperglade teams up with Bilaal Raji Saheed to present a collection of art and corresponding NFTs
By Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
Last week, the Hatch Works auditorium was a splash of colour and technology, as artist Bilaal Raji Saheed teamed up with Hyperglade to launch Sri Lanka’s first-ever non-fungible tokens (NFT) collection, as well as an exhibition of select paintings.
The collection, titled “Insta-Hockney”, pays tribute to David Hockney’s iconic 1967 pop art masterpiece, A Bigger Splash, which depicts a swimming pool beside a modern house, disturbed by a large splash of water created by an unseen figure who, it seems, has just jumped off a diving board.
The artist takes the original stillness of Hockney’s work, and adds to it whimsy, wit, and metaphor. The collection of art uses different media; some are hand-drawn, painted or stencilled in, while others are collaged, digitally manipulated or generated with artificial intelligence (AI).
While the paintings displayed were themselves full of colour and were also thought-provoking, the display of digital art with the use of old televisions really highlighted just how far technology has developed, and how much more it can advance.
NFTs and art
NFTs have been disrupting several industries globally, and Hyperglade Co-CEO Kalana Muthumuni explained that art was one of the first markets that the technology was able to disrupt.
“Especially now with [apps like] MidJourney and DALL-E 2 coming out, a lot of people are talking about how artificial intelligence will take over the art world and why artists will not be required in the future. What Bilaal has done here is simply use AI as a tool for his art, which is how we believe the future of technology will work,” he said, explaining that NFTs act as a deed for the artwork, giving them a resale value as well.
“With Hyperglade, we are exploring these to make utility cases out of NFTs that can empower and improve current and existing business processes. We started our journey in 2021, and hosted Sri Lanka’s very first NFT auction, where we were able to, for the first time in the region, introduce credit and debit card payments for NFTs.”
Muthumuni went on to say: “To our surprise, we found that a lot of people who didn’t even know about crypto were interested in buying NFTs because this was an additional use case of blockchain that they were willing to put money into.”
The Hyperglade Marketplace, which went live that night, will allow any creator to easily create NFTs.
“NFTs provide creators and artists a platform to monetise their work, and engage with communities around the world whilst staying in the comfort of their own home. With Insta-Hockney, our goal is to elevate Sri Lankan artists and the NFT space to international communities,” Muthumuni said, leading to an introduction of the artist.
Hyperglade teams up with Saheed
Muthumuni met Bilaal Raji Saheed on the first floor of Hatch Works several months ago, after Hyperglade Co-CEO Lakshan De Silva told him about the Royal College of Arts student who was “not only providing amazing artwork, but had some artwork that narrated certain events of our life. He used popular artwork as a canvas to tell his story”.
Addressing the gathering, Lakshan De Silva said the artist captures the essence of the company, making the partnership a good opportunity for Hyperglade as well, as the company aims at gaining increased visibility and traction of Sri Lankan digital content creators globally.
“What we are incorporating here is how technology and art intertwine and, at the inflection point, evolve into something else.”
Thanking the audience for being there, he said it means a lot for Hyperglade, as the interest shows that the use of technology in art has potential in Sri Lanka.
“In terms of art, Sri Lanka has a rich history of 2,500 years, and this means that the next 2,500 years will be even more exciting.”
Bilaal Raji Saheed is a multidisciplinary artist, designer, and architect, whose work spans across multiple media and disciplines, including AI-generated contemporary art, sculpture, architecture, interiors, and digital design. He works in London and Colombo, and has a MA from the Royal College of Arts. The artist explores themes of form, identity, and spirituality, which was apparent in his Insta-Hockney collection as well.
While Saheed has exhibited in group shows in Hong Kong and London, Insta-Hockney is his first solo exhibition. Touching on what led him to base this collection on David Hockney’s work, Saheed said: “When I first saw it, what I loved was how it captured a moment of complete stillness and a moment of complete chaos in the same painting. You see a very still, warm day, with nothing happening, except for this one moment of commotion. This is the splash, and you, as the viewer, don’t know who jumped in or what’s happening.”
The artist explained that the painting invites one’s imagination to fill it in with various objects, which is what he did, first by introducing different characters and then presenting different stories and narratives.
He said that his work can be critiqued for not starting with something fresh, but Saheed explained that the familiarity of the painting offered him a possibility to narrate different stories.
“And by doing that, I have also had the chance to take it further with different media, so some of the pieces are digitally made, some of them physically drawn, some of them generated using artificial intelligence, and some of them are a mixture of all these different techniques,” Saheed added.
PHOTOS ESHAN DASANAYAKA