Hadir Hammam

An Ambitious Visionary

Hadir Hammam stood out at Enigma’s “Covers Reimagined” art event last year with her version of our Radwa El Sherbiny cover. Her rendition drew attention to her talent and unique artistic style. To find out more about this rising artist, eniGma’s Rola Khalil got the chance to chat with Hammam and to learn about her art, her journey, and her dreams.

Born and raised in Cairo, Hadir Hammam was steeped since childhood in Egypt’s history and architecture. Growing up, she was fascinated and inspired by the artistic heritage of ancient Egypt as well as Islamic art and architecture. At university, she decided on combining two majors, one of which was Art; and went on to graduate from the American University in Cairo in 2012 with both a Bachelor of Arts in Art Vision and a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering. After graduation, she practiced interior design for five years before settling on a career in real estate project management. Throughout her practical career however she maintained her artistic aspirations, clinging on to her dream of becoming a fulltime artist at some point. Here are excerpts of her chat with Enigma.

How did you start your journey as an artist?
From my childhood, pencil colors, paints and art crafts were my real source of amusement, and my love for art grew through the years, manifesting itself in drawing, painting and experimenting with a lot of different media. My real debut as a visual artist was in 2012 when I created my very first project–an installation–as my graduation project. It was exhibited at a juried exhibition in Sharjah Art Gallery and later that year was selected for an exhibition at Darb 1718. As both an artist and an architect emerging into the professional world, I was drawn to combine these two areas of study in my work. A few years after my first installation, something brought me back to painting. Since then, the canvas has remained the haven where I express and project my thoughts and feelings.

What are challenges you face as an artist?
I think the biggest challenge that an artist faces is the need to have a constant flow of ideas and inspirations to feed their creativity. It’s important for artists to constantly educate themselves, to be aware of what’s happening in the field, and to maintain their presence in the art scene. This helps you evolve and reduces the fear of experimentation. Stretching one’s limits and not fearing how the audience will react to your work of art is key.

How accepting are you of criticism?
The beauty of art is that it’s subjective. It is an expression of emotional and conceptual ideas that involve creativity. It’s about deliberately expressing and communicating how we experience and envision the world. Your expression will often have different meanings to different people. It’s healthy for the artist to listen to constructive criticism and turn it into productive thoughts, ideas and feelings. At the same time, it’s important not to let such criticism stop you from achieving your goals.

Do you have a favourite artist that you look up to?
Honestly, it’s very hard for me to pick a favourite artist, but if I were to name a few, they would be Henri Matisse and Paul Gaugin. Matisse’s paintings were bold, and his use of vibrant colours made his paintings both original and revolutionary. I also love Gaugin for his bold use of colours and exaggeration in painting. I also admire Van Gogh’s painting technique. His thick brushstrokes and bright colours enrich the eye and the soul.

What inspires you as an artist?
I’m a firm believer that art is all about life. Food is art, the way one dresses, carries oneself, everything in life is art. I also believe that art is a comprehensive discipline that can take on many shapes and forms. I constantly explore and find inspiration in daily encounters to develop my creative and artistic practice.

Much of your art is abstract. Is there a reason behind that?
There’s freedom to abstract art, and I just love that. The beauty of abstract art is that it does not attempt to represent an accurate or a realistic depiction. There are no guidelines or frameworks, you just unleash yourself and your creativity. My work questions my own experiences which are in constant change and movement. I like to produce pieces which challenge my concepts, carry meanings, feelings, or expressions, and I also believe that a strong art piece should engage the viewer and have something to convey. I just hate how sometimes people consider abstract art as scribbles or just a nice painting to look at.

What are your plans looking forward?
I don’t have much of a concrete or solid plan, but I would like to believe that the future has a lot in store for me, and that I will take my art to new places. I hope my love for art keeps growing; and I hope to grow my talent and share my passion by expanding my presence in the market, not just through social media, but by attending more local and international exhibitions.

What is success to you as an artist?
The struggle is real, and there’s no formula for success. Yet, I would say that success to me is doing the best I can to make a difference, to leave a legacy as I continue to create art, develop as an art practitioner and become a well-rounded artist. Success basically means utilizing my capabilities to the fullest to achieve my short–and long-term–artistic goals.

When do you feel satisfied with a piece you are working on?
It’s very hard to tell if I’m satisfied or done with a painting, because there’s really no way to tell when a painting is finished. I don’t focus much on whether I should be done or whether I’m satisfied with a piece. Rather, I unleash my inner self and let things flow naturally. Once I feel that the dialogue between me and the canvas is over, and I don’t have much to add, satisfaction kicks in and, voila! What’s utterly important is to actually step back and look at it; sometimes it’s even better to come back later to look at the painting. This helps me know if I should continue or stop, and most importantly, avoid being greedy with the outcome. Otherwise, I can keep working for hours and hours, layer after layer and each time, I will get a different outcome; so, there must come a time to stop.

Can you pick an important milestone in your career?
A very dear personal experience is my real debut as a visual artist which was in 2012. I had a vision to transform and express concepts trapped in flat 2D art into an interactive 3D conceptual installation. This was my first installation, and it was a very dear personal experience for me. It was an experiment in which I truly brought in my two areas of study–art and architecture. I came up with a strong conceptual project and produced an intriguing art installation depicting my own reading of a hot topic at the time, an event that was very impactful to this generation, namely the Egyptian Revolution.