Born in Egypt (1967), Nermine Hammam is an Egyptian photo artist, living and working between Cairo and London. As an artist, she photographs the world and then alters the images she captures: her works are intricate composites of layered images and symbols, transformed through the prism of an aesthetic that combines digital manipulation and painting to form a rich and highly personal tapestry.
Hammam obtained her BFA in filmmaking from New York University’s Tisch School of Arts, going on to work with Simon & Goodman and renowned film director Youssef Chahine. In images that pay homage to artists such as Diane Arbus and the Russian filmmaker, Tarkovsky, Hammam seeks out individuals in states of abandonment, marginalization or altered states of consciousness, relentlessly uncovering the vulnerability behind the mask, the frailty behind the gun and the hidden power structures within the family unit. Strongly influenced her background in filmmaking, her images form sequential narratives, like the stills of a film, related in time and space.
Concerned with the subjective nature of reality, Hammam subverts the stereotype, unmasking it, in all its two-dimensionality, forcing us to question the limits of images we hold in our minds and mistake for truth. She forages the belly our collective subconscious, playing with the shared symbols from which we draw sustenance and comfort. In her work, the mass produced-image of Stalin clasps Christ, armed with a gun, in an overall pose reminiscent of Madonna and Child. Stereotypes of gender or military might become meaningless signifiers in images that attribute true power to a balance between opposing energies of the universe. Like voodoo dolls, her warrior women, the successors of Egypt’s ancient goddess, Ma’at, evoke the transformative power of art, a ritualistic call for the restoration of order and harmony. In Hammam’s work ‘stasis’ is represented as a beguiling but impossible Utopia. Instead, she engages with that constant state of flux, at work within us and around us. Hers is a celebration of archaic symbology that points to ancient truths, lying concealed, just beneath the thin veneer of politics, ideology and religion.
Nermine Hammam’s work is widely exhibited and has been included in public and private collections around the world. This includes international biennales such as the Bamako Biennale for Photography, in Mali (2011), X Biennale, Cuenca Ecuador (2009), and Photo Biennale, Thessaloniki (2009). Over the past decade, her work has been shown in more than fifty international exhibitions, both solo and collective, around the world.