Israeli painter Roy Nachum has created the artwork for Rihanna’s eighth studio album Anti – here we look at his unique style and why she chose him
After much anticipation, Rihanna has released the artwork for her eighth album Anti. Well worth the three-year wait, the sleeve is the work of Israeli-born visual artist and painter Roy Nachum. Bathed in a mist of crimson paint, the album cover features an image of a young Rihanna clasping a black balloon with a metallic gold crown obscuring her eyes. “This is me as a little girl,” RiRi explains, gesturing at the photo of herself at her first day of daycare.
A world away from anything she has released previously, the entire album is inscribed with a Chloe Mitchell poem written in braille. In Rihanna’s own words, “The whole idea behind the braille is that people who have sight are sometimes the people who are blindest.” But who is the man behind Rihanna’s “favourite album cover” of her career, and where did he and Rihanna first cross paths?
A MEETING OF MINDS
Bonded by their shared approach and vision, Rihanna and Roy Nachum first met through a mutual friend. “I was introduced to his art through a very good friend of mine,” said Rihanna. “I fell in love with it because I felt like there was another spirit, there was another layer to the art”. Having already designed her “American Oxygen” cover back in April and the single artwork for “FourFiveSeconds” and “Bitch Better Have My Money”, this is by no means their first collaboration.
Nachum’s works are collected by the likes of Jay Z, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sir Phillip Green, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake and of course Rihanna herself. But it seems that it was his instinctively emotive and nuanced vision that instantly impressed and wooed the Barbadian. In her “He sees things beyond the surface, which is why we even decided to collaborate.” Dubbing Rihanna a “true artist and visionary”, Nachum clearly feels the same way. With the help of the artist, Rihanna has yet again defied public expectations, making it obvious that she is intent on doing her latest record in her own way.
THE EARLY DAYS
Born in Jeruslaem in 1979, Nachum has been painting since the tender age of four. Enthralled by watching his artist father daub canvases in paint, he ceaselessly strived to paint as well as his dad. Since then, the painter, sculptor and installation artist has left his homeland and gone on to study at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York, where he now resides.
No stranger to hard graft, Nachum routinely paints for 16 uninterrupted hours with no break for consecutive days until he has a finished result. In his own words, “When I paint I can’t feel my body, I just paint, nothing else matters – I have set out on a mission that I must complete. Art is my life; creating is like waking up in the morning and drinking a glass of water”.
THE BIRTH OF NACHUM’S PARALLEL REALITY OF PERCEPTION
As Nachum’s work has developed and flourished, the 36-year-old has become increasingly fixated on the limitations of individual perception. Arguing that our own view of the world is shaped by our experiences, he claims that we are all shrouded by subjectivity. As he so lucidly explains, “Perception is subjective and variable; depending on how we see, what we think we see and what we do not see, our perception changes. There are people who cannot even see the sun upon awakening. Open your eyes, forget the bullshit and appreciate that you can see.”
For this reason, themes of human perception and memory play a significant role in much of Nachum’s art. Rihanna’s latest album artwork for Anti being a case in point: it’s clear that the multiple layers of paint and intersecting shadows are layered with different sentiments and memories. What’s more, the recurring image of a child with a crown obscuring his vision can be seen throughout Nachum’s work. Expanding on its symbolic significance, Nachum explains that “the crown is a metaphor for blindness caused by displaced values and desire. The balloon is the dream; everyone has a dream”.
‘When I paint I can’t feel my body, I just paint, nothing else matters – I have set out on a mission that I must complete. Art is my life, creating is like waking up in the morning and drinking a glass of water’ – Roy Nachum
NACHUM’S EXPERIMENTATION WITH BRAILLE
Nachum’s interest in human perception has led him to explore and reimagine the art experience for the visually impaired. After stumbling across a braille sign at an exhibition, he started to think about ways to make his art accessible for the blind. In doing so, he hopes to make those with sight examine and thus interrogate the inadequacies of their own perception. By layering braille across his canvasses, a blind person is able to interact with the intellectual substance and the emotional meaning of the painting.
What’s more, for Nachum, the process of painting the image and writing the text – whether it’s a story or poem – is parallel. As he explains, “I create them together. The text is parallel to the painted image and represents the inner feelings I have towards the piece.” As the first visual artist to integrate braille into his oil paintings, Nachum is very much exploring uncharted territory. Moreover, having spent a week blindfolded in preparation for his previous collection, Blind, it is clear that he is taking the whole thing seriously.
UNLEASHING THE POWER OF TOUCH
Unlike most artwork, which is surrounded by ‘Don’t Touch’ signs, Nachum actively encourages viewers to physically touch his work. During his Parallel Realities exhibition, he invited people with visual impairments to come and enjoy the collection. In his words, “Visually impaired people can experience my art; they are all of a sudden included in something that before was very abstract to them.” In bridging the gulf between onlooker and untouchable, revered artwork, Nachum allows people to interact and thus engage with his art. Anti is predicted to be Rihanna’s most experimental album yet, her parternship with Nachum just a taste of where she may go creatively.