Saddo – Rise of The Bird People | Interview
We’ve talked to Saddo about his solo show, Rise of The Bird People, open at Objectos Misturados from May 31st to July 5th, 2014. Here are some insights.
Many things have happened since our last interview in October 2013. How are you, Saddo, and how are you enjoying Portugal and the art scene there?
Yes, Portugal is great, we had the chance to visit some places near Lisbon, Cascais, it’s near the ocean, it has a beautiful lush park filled with birds, Sintra, it’s more mountainy, with forests, chilly humid breeze, old moorish castles. We took a trip to Porto for Aitch‘s show at O!Galeria, we visited Viana do Castello, a small beautiful town where I had my show, and also Figueira da Foz, another small town near the ocean, with lots of street art, where we’ll paint a bunch of murals later this summer.
The Painted Shield / part of Rise of The Bird People solo-show
About the art scene, Lisbon is more street art / urban art oriented, there’s lots of big murals by famous street artists, a few people and organizations who produce local mural events and festivals: there’s Underdogs, a project of Portuguese street artist Vhils, he invites lots of awesome artists to paint murals, there’s Galeria de Arte Urbana, an organization working with the City Hall I guess, organizing different projects, mural contests, and there’s WOOL, a few friends who organize and produce mural events in different cities in Portugal, and they invited us to be part of this festival in Figueira da Foz. So, there’s a lot happening with street art and murals in Lisbon.
Porto on the other hand has a more varied illustration scene, there are a few awesome illustration galleries, O!Galeria and Dama Aflita, and lots of really nice and talented illustrators, we felt super nice meeting a few of them.
The “Rise of The Bird People” exhibition at Objectos Misturados (May 31st – July 5th, 2014) is your first solo show. You’ve participated in many group exhibitions until now, how’s the feeling when having a whole gallery to yourself? And we also know that you spent a couple of months working on this, so it was a lot of effort. Tell us more about the importance of this event for your artistic activity.
It’s not really really my first solo show, I had one in my home town when I was much younger, when I was a student, but that doesn’t really count. I’ve also had duo-shows with Aitch and Other in Romania, Germany, Canada, or small group shows with only 4-5 artists in a big space, practically a bunch of small solo-shows gathered in one space. So it’s not something completely new or groundbreaking for me. It’s just that this time I showed all by myself, cause the space is pretty small. The challenge was to try to come up with a more cohesive series that has a really clear concept and background story, and every piece should look good in itself and in the context of the series, and the whole series should look good as an ensemble, in the context of the gallery.
Midnight / part of Rise of The Bird People solo-show
Regarding the concept of the current exhibition, we understand that, referring to Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors, you are metaphorically duplicating the experience, as if history repeats itself in your paintings, only this time with battle scenes between a future race of super-birds conquering and hunting down humans, just like humans did and are doing to other species and even to other people. What experience, events and so on inspired you to explore such a theme for your first solo show? Share a few insights about the idea behind the series.
In the last year I’ve been constantly playing with the image of the bird, in different contexts, shapes, meanings. And I also was very fascinated by exploring, traveling, illustrations of exotic plants, animals, landscapes, travel diaries and illustrations. But they were always a bit strange, something you would just find in old books. But moving to Portugal, wherever I went, on the streets, on buildings, on tiles, museums, etc, I started seeing all these depictions of explorers, of conquerors, of old ships sailing to mysterious exotic places. So it started to feel more real and fascinating, and then I started sketching these strange, proud characters, conquistadors with bird heads, inspired by the imagery of the conqueror, mixed with all sorts of influences – Renaissance portraits, costumes and armors, Islamic miniatures with their super complex fight scenes and characters draped in crazy clothes, colors, patterns.
Breaking Dawn (work in progress)
Study IV / part of Rise of The Bird People solo-show
So all these visual references, mixed with my love of sci-fi books, movies, The Twilight Zone, Planet of The Apes, The Birds, and with my personal feelings regarding colonialism, violence that perpetuates itself throughout the history of mankind, the humans’ disrespect and disregard for environment, nature, animals… all these came together in some sort of ironic, apocalyptic fable in which these beautiful frail birds suddenly become the conquerors, and humans are forced back to a primitive state.
Study V / part of Rise of The Bird People solo-show
Human-bird hybrids often occur in your work and last time when we talked we highlighted this aspect. Isn’t it a little ironic that for this exhibition birds, a symbol of freedom, of the ability to fly, to which humans aspire at least at a symbolic level, are now the conquerors? Is it a revenge, putting people in cages? Why birds and not other species?
Yes it is some sort of revenge, warning, but it’s sad and ironic, cause birds are these small, frail creatures, you never see them as a threat. So my fantasy could never happen, if humans were to bring all the birds to extinction, there wouldn’t be any race of super birds to avenge them.
Skull of The Enemy / part of Rise of The Bird People solo-show
Also, birds are very beautiful and colored, and depicting them as conquerors, draped in clothes full of floral patterns, protected by shiny armor – it all looks pretty and impressive, and, exactly like in the case of the imagery of conquerors all through history, it’s very easy to overlook what they’re actually doing – killing, conquering, destroying “weaker” creatures, etc.
Study II / part of Rise of The Bird People solo-show
What is “savage” to you and how would you describe human behavior today?
Savage is not caring about other people, about other creatures, exploiting everything until it’s all ruined.
What are you working on right now? Do you already have a next big thing on your agenda?
Right now I’m doing sketches for a series of paintings for a duo-show with Aitch, at La Petite Mort Gallery, in Ottawa. So the next biggish thing is this show in August, and painting a mural for Fusion festival, in Figueira da Foz. And maybe some other shows later, in the Fall/Winter, maybe something in London, Hamburg, Vienna, etc.
All images © Saddo