We sat down with Syrian digital collage artist Adnan Samman, a regular on the new media scene - Adnan gives us an insight into his process, the story behind his now infamous instagram handle and you heard it here first what's next for this rising star!
How would you describe your work in one sentence?
An experimental attempt at seeing the Arab world from a different angle.
As a Syrian living in Budapest, what role does identity play in your work?
I think it's always important for art to have an identity. A characteristic that we can associate it with. You can easily look at a Warhol piece and know it's a Warhol piece, even if you're not familiar with it. Interesting art always has that. Doesn't have to be an identity of place or citizenship. It can be anything! I try my best to develop that in my work, as I believe it's important for an artist to feel like they belong to their art as much as their art belongs to them.
What are 3 things you've learnt from the pandemic and how did it affect your art and creativity?
The biggest lesson I learned from the pandemic is the fact that going out there and experiencing the world first-hand is truly what inspires me. At the beginning of all this, I thought that I would now have so much more time to focus on my art, but ended up losing that creative flare that helped me produce in the past years. 2020 has been a very tough year. On the other hand, I improved my hand drawing and sketching skills, and learned how to include more of that in my work. I also did a lot of readings on art history and how to make a better living as an artist, and that was both fun and enriching.
Now more than ever, we look for hope - could you tell us more about how you feel your art evokes those emotions or similar ones?
I'm not sure if my art evokes hope. I certainly hope so! But I know for sure that it evokes different feelings in different people. I also know for sure that many people relate to some certain pieces I made, and maybe that feeling of solidarity can keep hope alive among us.
What was your inspiration behind "Women" and "Elements, Palestine" and "Yalla"?
For Elements, this was a series I worked on a few years ago. It started with sampling colors from renaissance paintings, but soon evolved to something more interesting. In this piece, you can see color squares against a black and white background. Those colors were sampled from the photo itself before I turned it into black and white. The idea behind this project was to try and take an extremely minimal look at our surrounding and see if colors make it what it is.
For women, the piece was a total accident. I remember I had something else in mind and ended up with this. The circles are a reference to “halos”; those rings around the heads of saints and sacred people in classic art. I was definitely inspired by that. And of course elements of the environment: a landscape and flowers from the interior courtyard of a traditional house in Damascus to complete the scene.
"Yalla" happened in time when I was experimenting with creation of neon signs, installation art, and all that stuff. I wanted to include some of that in my work, and a lot of times I was stuck at choosing the right text. For some reason, I thought the simple, but very interesting Arabic word "Yalla - يلا", which can mean a ton of things, can be fun. So that piece came to life! The landscape, being Mecca, also came out of absolute chance, but they all looked cool together at the end. I think it's one of those pieces that are open for personal interpretation! "I Will Break Your Heart in Two" was made around the time of the first Beirut protests of late 2019 and early 2020. The city in the artwork is Beirut, and this was a love letter to the city that breaks our hearts and keeps fixing them too!
Explain your process to us - what is the most enjoyable part?
My process is mainly based on improvisation and experimentation. I start with a very minimal and simple idea and then put things on top of each other until I reach a point where I'm satisfied (or baffled!). Then I know it's time. When the artwork starts saying something, and when it starts looking like something I, Adnan, made. Of course, most of the time everything happens on the computer, however, a lot of times I sketch the ideas on a paper, write notes, etc before jumping on the computer. The most fun part is when the work switches from openness and experimentation to the core idea. When everything is clear and when I know exactly where I'm going. Of course, sharing the final product is also always thrilling.
Fun fact or hobby you pursue that can't be found online?
I love sports. I watch a lot of football, and I'm a literal football nerd. I have been a fan of Italian club Juventus for over 15 years now, and I keep that obsession offline most of the time.
What's the story behind your Instagram handle, The Post Modern Apollo
There was this episode from my favorite tv show (the x-files) called “the post-modern Prometheus” and as a big fan of postmodern art/design movements and Greek mythology, I figured I would call my Instagram handle that but replace it with Apollo, the god of poetry and creativity - this was in early 2015.
Sneak peek to any future plans and projects?
I'm moving to Italy, particularly Venice or Florence, in the next two months. Both cities are arguably the most important art cities in the world, and I'm excited to be going to live there. I'm planning to immerse myself in the art world there, and hopefully start laying down the foundations of an art-related business for 2021. I was already planning things for this year, but the pandemic as well as other complications of life happened. So fingers crossed for that next year!here!