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[Exclusive] Decrypting Rihanna's Braille Album Art

Artist Roy Nachum explains the message behind Rihanna’s latest album’s cover art.

During a visit to Jay Z’s private art collection, the singer Rihanna came across works by artist Roy Nachum and decided that she wanted him to make seven Fire paintings to be used as the cover art and promotion poster for her forthcoming eighth studio album, Anti. “She reached out to me and we immediately connected, we talked about ideas, life, and art and seemed to share a clear idea of what we wanted to do from the start,” explains Nachum of the collaborative nature of the project. “I worked on ideas and sketches until we had something we both felt was perfect."

The contemporary artist and singer unveiled the works at MAMA Gallery, in Los Angeles. Among the seven works is the image used as the front cover, depicting a young Rihanna wearing a gold crown covering her eyes with a black balloon tied around her wrist. The painting is layered with sculpted braille poetry, that with lines like, “I sometimes fear that I am misunderstood,” and “What I need to say, won’t be heard,” suggest that the singer’s fame has drowned out her voice. “The crown is a symbol of power and success and often renders people 'Blind' and obscures true values,” explains Nachum, who has also helped create the artwork for Rihanna’s "FourFiveSeconds" and "Bitch Better Have My Money" singles, released earlier this year. “The balloon, lighter than air, embodies the possibility of escape and human need to transcend physical reality,” he explains. The three other Fire paintings have smeared white Braille lettering without a figurative image punched into the surface of the canvas. The textual works continue the employment of poetry in the series.

"Fire" part I of a tryptic of painting in collaboration with Rihanna. 46 x 38 inches, Oil and Ash on Canvas

Nachum’s practice as a sculptor and painter has long included braille as a visual tool and language. It appears in works like his 2011 The King and Light painting series. Anti's cover “is the first album cover to incorporate physical braille,” says Nachum. For the artist, the album work isn’t just cover art but representative of his larger practice. “My work experiments with human perception and explores the boundaries between the visual and the non-visual. The child with a crown obscuring his or her eyes is a recurring image in my work. I test the viewer’s inner vision and examine if what we see is what we think we see." The artist often blindfolds himself for weeks at a time. Nachum adds that Anti is his way of encouraging “people to touch and interact with [the] work, it keeps the work alive and breaks this barrier between viewer and sacred object.”

Click here, to see more of Roy Nachum’s art work.

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