I was quite excited when I discovered Saddo's work but I reigned in my enthusiasm until after I had learned more about his work (having been let down in the past) yet with every piece of work I found, the same confidence and momentum was there. Disconcerting, fun, and puzzling, his works feel light yet are profound, the colours bright but staid; they're coils of contradiction that unapologetically straddle genres. I love them and I'm more than a little perplexed how he hasn't received even more attention than he already has.
Obviously, I immediately got in touch with him and put a number of questions to him which he answered with confidence, candour and a refreshing lack of ego.
You say in your bio that in your childhood, you "used to devour tones of horror and sci-fi movies and books". Which movies and books were most important to you?
Yeah, I used to read sci-fi books and watch sci-fi and horror movies indiscriminately, anything I could get my hands on. I started with Jules Verne, H.G.Wells, and then got into classic sci-fi like Asimov, Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, Roger Zelazny, Robert Silverberg, Gregory Benford, stuff like that, any kind of sci-fi or fantasy, from adventure/action stuff, to space-opera, cyberpunk, and more conceptual stuff. One of the first books that opened my appetite for sci-fi was Dune, it was a present from my aunt. And then The Foundation, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Timescape, Ender's Game, Palmer Eldritch, Lord of the Rings, lots and lots of others.
And about movies, the same, I used to rent tapes of any sci-fi or horror movies from the '80s and '90s, from the first horror movies I watched when I was a kid were Evil Dead, and an obscure movie I've never heard about since, called Xtro.
I was a huge Star Wars fan, I saw the movies dozens of times, I used to draw the characters, the spaceships, everything. Alien, Predator, Terminator, Close Encounters of The Third Kind, E.T., Flash Gordon, Friday the 13th, Ghostbusters, Nightmare on Elm Street, Blade Runner, The Thing, and many many other classic, plus obscure cheesy cheap 80s-90s horrors with monsters and zombies - I was devouring all of them."...it was super fun, fresh, we hung out together a lot, we worked together, and street art became the glue that brought us and kept us together."
What did you learn from "street art" and why did you set up The Playground in Romania?
Street-art was something completely new and fresh for me, especially cause I "discovered" it in a time of my life, when I was a fresh graduate from the University of Art, and I found myself stuck, in a huge creative block and identity crisis which lasted for almost two years. And street-art slowly made me trust myself again, be able to get out there and express myself more free, without the constraints and pressure of academic life and high-brow art. And it made me realize, or remember that art should be fun. It was like when I was a sci-fi and horror kid getting enthusiastic about creature designs, details on spaceships, stuff like that. It was fun. But at the same time it also brought responsibility, cause suddenly street-art got into the attention of galleries, agencies, brands, etc. and this made me want to get better and better, and I got to work with many brands, participate in many group exhibitions all over the world, and basically to be able to do what I love, and live off it.
One of the great things about street art is the sense of community, and the possibility to meet other artists whose works you love and appreciate, and even paint with them."Sometimes I really enjoy putting thought and research into a piece, and sometimes I just let it happen."
At the time when I was living in Cluj ( the city I studied in), there really wasn't too much street-art going on there, Bucharest, the capital of Romania was much more active and energetic. So me and a friend of mine started doing stuff, at first small stickers and then we got to bigger paste-ups, we found three other kids who were doing this and we formed a group, and it was super fun, fresh, we hung out together a lot, we worked together, and street art became the glue that brought us and kept us together.
Would you choose one of your works and go through how it developed and what it means to you?
I usually have two different kind of approaches, depending on my mood. Sometimes I really enjoy putting thought and research into a piece, and sometimes I just let it happen.
For example the "Huginn and Muninn" piece - part of "The Garden of Good and Evil" series of shows I'll have this year, together with my girlfriend Aitch - is part of a series which explores the presence of animals in different myths and legends, this one based on characters and deities in Norse mythology.
Before starting working on the piece I did a bit of research on the meanings and symbolism of different animals in myths and legends, and then I read some stuff about Norse mythology, Odin, Huginn and Muninn, shamanic rituals, etc. And then I started sketching out the composition, the characters, and started painting on the actual canvas. The process itself is pretty straight and planned out, and it doesn't contain too many surprises.
And there's the second category which is a bit more fun to work on, cause it's more free, I don't have a very clear idea of how the piece would look, or what the meaning behind it would be. Take for example one my "Charmer" pieces - I started by putting some basic colors on a piece of wood, and then working those colors, make them more vibrant, adding textures, layers, abstract shapes, and then covering them again with more watery colors. Usually after I'm pleased with how the background looks, I just stare at it for a while, maybe start working on some new similar background for future pieces, to keep myself in that mood, and when I have two or three finished backgrounds I'm thinking about characters, shapes, postures, I look at a lot of bird images, and when I find something inspiring or think of some basic idea, I start sketching and then painting the character. And usually this kind of piece is much more free, I don't need to have everything planned out, the character can change while I work, different surprising details can pop up. And my favorite part is the final touches, when the character and everything is almost done, I add small fun, details, for example in this piece the cartoon hands of the character bring a fresh, fun feeling, or the dots eaten by the snake, making it look like a Pacman.
Which artists have been important to you in recent years and why?
Wow, there are lots, I mean I listen to lots of different music genres from classical to hip-hop, watch so many movies, follow the work of lots of artists and illustrators, I really couldn't say which one has been most important. A constant influence in my life and art is my girlfriend Aitch. I also love and am influenced by the work of Bosch, Walton Ford, Botero, and also young lowbrow artists and illustrators. I'm also super influenced by Renaissance portraits, Vanitas paintings, old illustrations of plants and animals, the prints of Ernst Haeckel, oriental patterns, cartoons, stuff like this.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I'm working on a small illustration on paper, part of a series of new pieces for the "Garden of Good and Evil" shows Aitch and I will have next month at "La Petite Mort" gallery in Ottawa, and "Parantheses" gallery in Halifax. We'll be there for the openings and we'll paint some murals with our friend Other.
Also, all the pieces we're working on now, will be printed in limited editions for a show at Atelier Olschinsky in Vienna, in September.
La Petite Mort Gallery