What's behind the facade?

In 'Ambivalence', Israeli artist Sammy Nidam wants viewers to see through the filters of social media

In the digital era of today, many people use smartphones and social media for myriad activities. Content such as posts, fan comments, number of likes and followers, including the selfie phenomenon provides a different interpretation of beauty, sexiness, attractiveness and appropriation. This might lead to false self-esteem, particularly among young users.

Inspired by the extensive use and impact of social media, Israeli product designer and multidisciplinary artist, Sammy Nidam created female portraits to ignite his visitors' imagination by looking into their inner selves to find answers to his question: "What's behind all these ladies' filters? Secrets, desires or dreams?"

"The intense use of mobile phones and the exposure to social media motivated and inspired me. I transformed it to the canvas with my interpretation using portraits combined with layers and forms, which reflect the unclear images we see or show to others," he said.

(Photos courtesy of River City Bangkok)

With a life-long passion for contemporary paintings, including pop and street art, the artist painted vibrant and energetic portraits, featuring a woman's delicately beautiful faces and her mixed emotions. He also applied filters with a wide range of innovative techniques from monochrome, geometric and intricate patterns to negative space juxtaposition in his artwork.

"I started the process by sketching rough ideas and using footage of things I find inspiring. This is a process in which I move back and forward, eliminate or add elements, details and notes until I reach closer to the vision I have in my mind and only then, I start working on the canvas," Nidam explained.

"The next step is to paint the portrait after applying the background. I use acrylic paints which I apply with brushes, spray or any tool to achieve the desired effect. I developed a concealing method that allows me to reveal or hide layers and through that, I create new patterns, some intentional and some are unintentionally formed."

The painter also hopes to develop more new techniques with a variety of materials to express his creativity and take it to another level.

"So in my process, there's always a surprise element which I don't plan and most of the time, I'm satisfied with the results," he added.

Unlike computer-aided design and draft planning Nidam used as a product designer, this design process connected him to the Wabi-Sabi concept. The Japanese philosophy of imperfection further enlightened him on how to appreciate true beauty. In this way, those filters in his abstract paintings reflect the modern lifestyle in which everyone takes selfies and urges the viewers to ask themselves again: "Who am I truly behind the filters?"

Although Nidam insisted that social media was "a useful and necessary tool for connecting people from all around the world" during the pandemic, he still wanted his audience to hone their strengths through self-introspection. Accordingly, the artist's second solo exhibition is titled "Ambivalence".

He pointed out that this term defined "a state of having simultaneous conflicting reactions, beliefs or feelings towards an object".

"And for that matter, I was inspired by the Paul Gauguin quote, 'I shut my eyes in order to see'. For me, it symbolises the need to stop and clear our mind and refine it, so the portrait is capturing this moment when the eyes close and the surrounding noises are ignored."

One of Nidam's favourite artworks in this showcase is Appearance as it represents his unique technique and "the feeling of a mask or second skin which is like a filter or some sort of shield for the person behind".

"Ambivalence" is now on view until March 27 at River City Bangkok's Room 254 on the 2nd floor. Visit rivercitybangkok.com for further information.

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