Members of #RihannaNavy and the Internet at large have likely seen the heady cover art for Rihanna's much-hyped eighth album, Anti (pictured above). After all, minutes after the singer shared the image on her Instagram account, it garnered more than 284,000 likes. But it also prompted a plethora of questions. What does the artwork mean? Does the red paint blot represent blood? Is the little girl supposed to be Rihanna? Desperate for answers in advance of the album's sure-to-be surprise release, we reached out to the man behind the painting, Israeli artist Roy Nachum, who calls RiRi a client and "true visionary." Read on for the Q&A.
First off, how did you and Rihanna meet?
Jay Z and Ty Ty [Roc Nation co-founder Tyran Smith] both collect my work, and Ty Ty introduced her to some of my stuff one night at her studio while she was working on new music for the album. Then she reached out to me and we started discussing concepts.
What does the cover art mean?
It depicts a young girl with a gold crown covering her eyes, and a black balloon strung tightly to her wrist, painted in multiple, intersecting views, expressing that the "truth" is in the eye of the beholder. The child whose vision is obscured by a crown represents man's blindness caused by displaced values and desire, while the balloon embodies the possibility of escape and signifies the human need to transcend physical reality. The back cover features an oil painting of the same young girl seen from behind. Both paintings are inscribed with sculpted Braille poetry. My work tends to experiment with human perception, and working with Braille allows me to extend communication to people who are blind and become a vehicle for sighted viewers to confront their own existential apprehensions.
Is the little girl supposed to be Rihanna?
Yes. She can be seen as a metaphor for how our view of the world is often obscured by our ambitions and desires. The image of a child is very personal, very real, and very free, as it represents one's true self. I used actual photos of Rihanna as child for reference.
Did she give you any instructions for creating the cover?
We talked about ideas, life, and art, and seemed to share a clear idea of what we wanted to do from the start. The child with a crown obscuring his/her eyes is a recurring symbol in my works and represents power and success that often renders people "blind" and obscures their true values.
Can you speak about the rest of the Fire series that's included in the album insert?
It's my most radical work to date. They're all collaborative and were executed with the participation of people who are blind. Each solid canvas textured with Braille poetry has a frame that I burnt to charcoal. As my unsighted collaborators ran their fingers from burnt frame to sculpted Braille, evidence of their actual physical contact left a trail of "painterly" marks. The messages and poems in Braille relief are intended to evoke sensations in the blind "viewer" or participant parallel to those felt experiencing a painting through sight. As part of my process, I blindfolded myself for a week to become fully immersed in the work. Rihanna also blindfolded herself in my studio while touching the paintings.
Watch the video for "Bitch Better Have My Money" here, and get pumped for the release of Anti.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.