SADDO is a Romanian artist, illustrator and muralist, always attracted towards a fantastic, bizarre imagery, since childhood, when he used to devour tones of horror and sci-fi movies and books. He studied the basics of graphics at the University of Art and Design in Cluj-Napoca, but his first important step to what he is today as an artist, was discovering street art, and founding one of the first street art collectives in Romania, The Playground.
His artistic work ranges from dreamy, colorful, pop-surrealistic paintings, to dark, monochromatic, powerful drawings. He doesn’t have a very rational approach in his artistic process, he feels his works are collections of suggestions, influences from Renaissance, Flemish Masters, lowbrow art, street art, design, and personal moods - all brought together in a fantastic scene, or an intricate monstrous Arcimboldian portrait, or even abstract compositions.
His work was shown in many group exhibitions all over Europe and the US.
After having lived in cites like Berlin, Bucharest, or Lissabon, and also after having travelled a lot recently, you have now moved to Brasov/Romania. Do you think you have finally found the perfect place to stay ? What does “being home“ mean to you? And how much do the actual surroundings influence you?
Saddo: No, actually I don´t think I have found the perfect place, and I´m starting to think that there is no such thing. I haven´t given up trying to find it, in my mind I´m making a collage of the best things about each place I´ve lived in, trying to imagine a perfect place. Berlin was cool and inspiring, with lots of creative stuff and experimentations, Bucharest was great for jobs, collaborations with advertising agencies, and meeting people, Lisbon was super pretty, with awesome architecture, vegetation, weather, and Brasov is cool because it has mountains and forests very close to our house. But each of them had its downsides, so in my mind I´m apparently looking for a place which looks pretty, has great warm weather, forests, sea, good art scene and galleries, agencies, and friends … And yea, I´m very much influenced by the surroundings, look how much thought went into that question :)
You deal a lot with death and darkness within your latest work. What is it that fascinates you about these topics?
Saddo: It´s not really a fascination with death itself, it´s actually a scary thought that sometimes haunts me, not so much lately, but it was pretty obsessive a year ago while I was working for my last show, “A Stranger in the Garden“, for which I made a series of pieces exploring the way death is personified in different cultures and mythologies. I can´t really tell exactly why I´m attracted towards the subject, it´s a mix of reasons – my own thoughts of death, the fact that Heliana (editor´s note: his artistic partner and girlfriend Aitch) suggested it would be a great theme to explore, the fact that I´m fascinated with stories and myths – so the theme kind of came naturally.
And I also like to play with contrasts when I paint, with colourful, beautiful elements, like flowers, leaves, birds, mixed with more dark stuff like coffins, skulls, and weird characters. I wouldn´t paint a beautiful character surrounded by pretty flowers, or a dark painting with only creepy, morbid elements. I like to mix them together, thus the title “A Stranger in the Garden“, I find it a little bit more intriguing, mysterious and interesting.
The bird seems to be one of the main characters lately. Does this animal have a special meaning to you?
Saddo: It depends on the context, I never really think of a very specific symbolism or stuff like that, but I like to play with different elements, sometimes the bird has legs, sometimes it has a humanoid head, sometimes it has a coffin body, so there´s lots of possible meanings, I wouldn´t want to try to explain it very rationally or give it a very definite meaning, I think it´s better if it´s more ambiguous and dreamy. And sometimes birds are just there cause they look good and they´re fun to paint.
Do you somehow identify with any of your characters?
Saddo: No, not really.
Your work is very intricate and detailed, so we guess to finish a piece in your style must be very time-consuming. How do you stay motivated? Do you work on several pieces at once?
Saddo: Sometimes it gets a bit frustrating, it seems like there´s no end in sight and I keep working on a piece and get lost in some detail and I just can´t picture it finished. I usually don´t work on more pieces at once, it´s just something psychological I guess, I just can´t start a new piece or a new project when I know that I have another unfinished one. What keeps me motivated is splitting my work in series, or projects, or stuff like that. It might sound banal, but it does comfort me sometimes when a piece is too time consuming, to know that I´ll soon finish it, and then I have to make 3 or 4 more, and then I´ll have a coherent collection. For example, right now I´m working on a collection of hand painted patterns, and it´s helpful for me to have a clear plan of how many of them I should create, and each one what content it should have.
Your murals are just as amazing as your pieces on canvas or paper, still they seem to be more colourful, cheerful, let´s say happier. Is there a reason for that?
Saddo: Thank you. I don´t know, probably because usually the murals are painted outside, when it´s nice and warm, and they don´t take as much time as a painting on canvas or paper, and that makes me feel better, more relaxed, and the pieces for my latest shows were mostly created indoors during the winter, when it´s cold and dark and I feel crappy and depressed :)
What´s next on your agenda?
Saddo: My plan is to take a break from shows and paintings for galleries, and focus more on developing my illustration portfolio, and try to diversify my work a little bit, make more commissions, make stuff that can be applied in different contexts–in textile prints, packaging design, editorial illustration, or murals, etc. And we´re also starting to explore some new places to maybe move to. So this year for me is about improving my illustration skills and portfolio, and finding a new place to live in.