By Gabriela Asquith
Controversial and quirky, Nadine Hammam is a sexy, smart and sometimes scandalous Egyptian artist who isn’t afraid to let it all hang out…
“Perfection is the object of beauty,” says Nadine Hammam. Born and raised in Cairo, Hamman, who started painting at the age of 10, has exhibited her work in London, Dubai, Paris and Washington DC. After graduating from the American University in Cairo with a BA in English and Comparative Literature, she wasn’t quite sure what path to take – but she did know she couldn’t get painting out of the picture. Although she was close to her parents, they didn’t support her dream of becoming an artist. Nevertheless, she brushed off their disapproval and followed her passion all the way to London’s Central St. Martins and an MA in Fine Art.
She describes her work today as conceptual visual art: “It’s more of a way of thinking. My work is not to be viewed as abstract art but neat, clean and perfect.” Hammam stresses that in Middle East, people are often forced into silence and unable to express their opinions. “I want to be an established Egyptian artist but it’s a struggle,” she says.
With her second solo exhibition, I’m For Sale, at the Safarkhan Gallery in Zamalek Cairo, she broke that silence by compelling the viewer to talk about what they see. The multi-disciplinary artist expresses her opinion symbolically through this striking series of paintings of nude women. These multi-layered canvases, executed in flawless flatness and appearing as solid, almost print-like photographic silk-screens, highlight the masculine gaze upon the female. She demonstrates this by placing the female in suggestive yet subtle postures and striking gazes, there to be passively framed and erotically enjoyed by the male viewer – thus playing with the idea that women are there simply to be admired.
Hammam embellishes on the idea (literally!) by using original Swarovski crystals in her paintings. If diamonds are a girl’s best friends, these are the most expensive imitation of the precious stones and signify the power of such gifts. “It’s something that men give women as a sign of value and so alludes to that idea of security,” she explains. Simultaneously painting a picture of identity and gender dynamics issues, Hamman illustrates that the only thing on sale is the representation of the object of desire – and not her soul.