MEET THE ARTIST - Special Feature on ADNAN SAMMAN

Where were you born? Where were you brought up?

I was born in Hama. A small city in northern Syria. I spent most of my childhood there before moving to Saudi Arabia then entered adulthood in Jordan. I'm always on the move.

Where do you feel from?

I don't feel like I belong somewhere specific. I'd be attached to the place that provides the most peace of mind for me. My favorite city is Berlin, even though I've never been there. But I feel attached to that city somehow. Home is the place I'll be able to freely contribute to and feel safe doing what I love for a living in. I don't believe in nations and borders (although I'm forced to sometimes, especially while traveling)

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"I don't feel like I belong somewhere specific. I'd be attached to the place that provides the most peace of mind for me. Home is the place I'll be able to freely contribute to and feel safe doing what I love for a living in. I don't believe in nations and borders"

Do you think your origins influence your art/enhances your vision?

I'm not sure if origins is the right word. My experiences and surrounding definitely influence my work yes! Is it Syria specifically? I don't think so, no. Last time I visited Syria was 2010. Too many things have happened since that year, and I'd say those had much more influence on who I am as a person.

What brought you to your art?

I've always been expressive throughout my life, but one particular point was when I left home for the first time and headed to Jordan to live on my own. I found myself in a new, big city with nothing. So I resorted to self expression to help me connect with people and pass free time doing something useful.

Who was your favourite artist as a kid?

There was this local artist called Maurice Sankari. He was a close friend of my father so I was able to visit his studio in Hama. He constructively criticized my work and taught me how to perceive art and enjoy it. It was so cool to see art in real life and I will never forget that. Mr. Sankari later moved to Jordan after the war and there he passed away in 2014.

Are you a natural or did you study your art?

I did not study art at an academic level, however, I read a lot of art theory all the time. So maybe somewhere in between. Most of my work is spontaneous though.

Where was your first exhibition?

My first exhibition happened in 2016 at the historic Central Saint Martins in London.

What did you learn from your first exhibition?

I learned that it's really easy to connect with people in this industry. If you make art, people out there are willing to take a look at it. The whole thing happened fast like a dream. I was like: yeah, whatever, let's just contact those people and let them know about my work. I did and they were super helpful. That led to my first exhibition being held at my dream venue! Always contact people. No matter how “far” they seem from the outside.

What convinced you to pursue your art career full time?

I thought I could do art as a hobby while doing other “good paying” jobs. I was mistaken and that caused so much stress. You just can't do well at a job you hate. I realized that I need to have my life revolve around art. I quit everything and now I'm doing this full time. It's not the most rewarding job out there, financially, but I'm happy.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Nothing specific. I find inspiration within almost everything. Things that happen with my friends, people around me, other artists of course, my surrounding environment, music, etc. There's something to be seen and learned everywhere.

Do you feel protected or exposed by your art?

I'd say both. Art is how I express myself, so it's not easy to put it out there for everyone to see and judge. But it's also very liberating and powerful. I believe it gets easier with time. The first few months or years are the toughest. Then art becomes your identity; your shield that protects and empowers you. I'm definitely more protected than exposed by my art at this point.

If there were a message in your art, which one would you like people to get?

I don't think there's one clear message to what I do. I may have one at the back of my mind sometimes, but it's more interesting to see how each individual perceives it.

Do you agree with “everything is personal, everything is political”?

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"Art is how I express myself, so it's not easy to put it out there for everyone to see and judge. But it's also very liberating and powerful. I believe it gets easier with time. The first few months or years are the toughest. Then art becomes your identity; your shield that protects and empowers you."

I do. One's personal choices and life reflect the political situation, or maybe opinions, of that person, or the group they come from. Politics shapes the personal lives of people affected the most by it. Political change comes as a collective response to that effect, to enforce new policies. They complement each other in what seems like an endless battle. One can't be taken out of the other's context.

(All photos courtesy of the artist Adnan Samman)