Working in pastels, pencils and charcoal, Nourine Hammad uses materials rarely seen in hyperrealism. By approaching her subject matter honestly and without vanity, she strives to create detailed work that celebrates perfection and imperfection which coexist comfortably alongside each other. Her works are so excruciatingly simple and complex at the same time it’s hard to believe they’re not the real thing. We have a chat with Hammad about her unique artistic expression and process.
What is your artistic process?
I begin by choosing the subject, which is probably the hardest part. It is quite an internal process and it takes time to brainstorm. I usually seek objects that have hidden or overlooked aesthetic, things that to others may seem trivial or of little importance. I then continue by photographing my object of choice from different perspectives, often changing the lighting and shadows, this enables me to decide which angles highlight the objects qualities the most.
I start drawing, sketching the outlines to begin with, then I add the ambient colours for the base and continue by adding more layers to create shadows and highlights. Eventually I add my own touch, which might differ from the original to give it the finish I have in mind.
Has your worked EVOLVED since your early days?
I think it has mainly changed in terms of the subject. I used to focus on how to draw materials with different textures such as steel, plastic and paper. I focused on how the shadows and reflections differed from each other. As I learnt the techniques, I started to make compositions myself and draw subjects from real life experiences and inspirations.
"The Joker I" - Mixed media on board paper, 59.4 x 84.1cm
Who is your favourite artist and why?
My favourite artist is Jeremy Geddes. He is an Australian hyperrealist artist, well known for his paintings of cosmonauts, of people floating, colliding and falling in empty space. I like his works as the subjects in his paintings are real, whereas the entire scene is surreal. I find the combination of the two genres phenomenal.
The playing card series has been an ongoing project for you for some time. How do you choose your subjects?
I like to choose subjects that play roles in our everyday lives. Maybe not significantly so, however playing cards have been around since before the 14th Century and have not changed drastically in design or shape. Regardless to age, class or race; playing cards is something that is done globally and in one way or another affected many lives. I also like to choose subjects that haven’t been explored in-depth by other hyperrealist artist’s. It is important to me, to find inspiration in objects that other people don’t think to look at twice. I choose subjects that inspire me as a person and reflect them in my paintings, it can be a phase of my life or an experience.
"The Joker II" - Mixed media on board paper, 59.4 x 84.1cm
Last time we spoke you told me about the ‘snack’ works you have started creating in between series works, what inspired this idea?
Yes, I believe that working on a series of paintings can reveal a lot about the mentality of an artist. Each painting in my series’ completes the other. It is almost like a story I want to tell, working on a series allows me to showcase a connection between the subjects.
I was inspired to make my first ‘snack’ painting during the rest period between finishing and starting a new painting for a series. The snack paintings have become my reset button, the time in which I get a break, hence ‘snack’ to think about my next painting.
"Life is like a box of chocolates" - Mixed media on paper, 49 x 43cm
You are of Egyptian heritage but you were born in Northern Ireland, where are you currently based and does this effect your subject matter?
I think my Egyptian heritage greatly influenced my early works in terms of subject matter. My heritage and multicultural upbringing is something I have always been very proud of and I think this shines through in my work. I am currently based in London, but to me every place I visit or have stayed in influences my work in one way or another. There is inspiration to be found in every place.
you use a range of mediums in your work, while most of the artists we represent use either oil or acrylic. do you think using a variety of materials allow you to show other aspects to your work?
Yes, most of the materials I use rarely appear in hyperrealism. I mainly use pastel; the texture it gives to each painting is very different than oil or acrylic – even if the subject is identical. I believe it’s a little like chemistry, you see how other mediums (other than oil or acrylic) react together to create a painting. To me trying different mediums and seeing what works and what the different effects are, is an important part of my artistic process.