Richard Saja is a New York-based artist working primarily with textiles. Saja tells us more about his work, which will be shown as part of the forthcoming exhibition ‘Young Masters: Dialogues’ at Sphinx Fine Art, 12 – 24 October 2015.
What is it about the Young Masters concept that interests you most?
The opportunity to show with a crack team of historically-minded artists keeping traditions alive while ploughing headlong into the future through innovation, experimentation and grace.
Can you explain to us what your work is about?
My enduring love and fascination for textiles derives from the absolutely unlimited interplay of pattern, colour and texture- there is no other medium where this trinity is so fully realized. I came up with the embellished toile concept while waking from sleep years ago. The original idea was to embroider Maori facial tattoos onto figures in the print but I soon discovered that were no toile prints available where that concept could be realized because of the relatively small scale of nearly all toile prints. I thus amended the concept slightly to include any and all embellishment. Toile is a print that through its dense repetition becomes anonymous. It’s a tabula rasa begging for context not unlike a child’s colouring book. The act of selectively embellishing small areas of it automatically inverts its historical usage: suddenly the anonymity of the print is broken and it evolves through its subversion. That perversion appeals greatly to me. By only focusing on single motifs to be embellished, my work breaks this pattern and functions as an inversion. With an economy of means, a whole new context is created. There is a story there, it just needs to be drawn out.
Which artist/s are you most inspired by?
I feel great kinship to Piero Fornasetti for his effortless ability to meld humour to elegance.
Can you tell us something about your background?
I’m an artist making work in Hudson, New York. After first attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia to study surface design, I then devoted my studies to the great books of Western Civilization at St Johns College in Santa Fe, NM and received a BA as a math and philosophy major. After a brief stint working as an art director on Madison Ave., all of my interests and education coalesced and a small design firm, Historically Inaccurate Decorative Arts, was born in the early 2000s.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
If I weren’t an artist I would most likely have become a curator. I’ve curated a few exhibitions in the past.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
A couple of years ago I presented my first toile print, SIDESHOW!, to the world and a few months later it was brought into the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They are the custodians of one half of the largest collections of historic toile prints on the planet, the other half being housed in Paris, and to be recognized by their curators and educators is a huge honour for me.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m currently working on a massive modular system of hand embroidered tapestries: an open ended toile print entitled PANOPTICON. Massive!