Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Interview with Alfredo Sabat

q)What is your name?

a) My name is Alfredo Sábat.

q) Where do you live and work?

a) I live and work in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

q)What is your creative process like?

a) When I’m working editorially, I am following a subject which isn’t my own invention. Although I am trying to follow it as best as I can, I’m also trying not to leave behind my own points of view and tastes, while being as clear as possible to most audiences. So I try to think about the specific story I’m telling, and search for the clearest symbols on my own “visual dictionary”.
When I am doing my own stuff, I move within my own world, so I don’t need anyone to understand, not even myself. I am free from that obligation. So it’s more of a “free association” thing.
On both cases, I usually look for documentation, mostly on the Internet. Then I do sketches, sometimes I even do collages with photos on the computer so as to decide the composition and color combination faster. Then comes the real work.

q)What is your favorite medium?

a) I do a lot of digital illustration, 2D or 3D, I also do watercolor, and sculpture in plaster or clay, but lately I enjoy the most painting in oil.

q)What is your current favorite subject?

a) More than a subject, I feel I have found a world, a period that I enjoy a lot. Let’s say it’s a language I use to tell other stories. And that is the world of early 20th century entertainment, circus and vaudeville. All that mixed with a lot of magic, mystery and a bit of decadence.

q)How long does it take for you to finish a piece?

a) When I’m working on the newspaper, I can’t take too long, usually two hours at the most. If I’m given the subject in advance, I may spend a couple of days on it.
When I’m painting an oil on canvas, it may vary from a week up to a month, or even more.

q)What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?

a) Regarding size and type, it may be the 8 murals I designed for a subway station in Buenos Aires, a couple of years ago. And that’s not because of the amount of people going by them every day, they may not even notice the murals at all. It’s the genre that impressed me. I had to think in a different way. I felt like a Cabaret piano player who’s asked to compose a symphony.

q)Are there any contemporary artists that you love?

a) I look a lot at art, from Giotto up to Lucien Freud, and everything in between, but mostly figurative painters. I also admire a lot the work of photographers August Sander, Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus. Lately I have been both fascinated and repelled by the work of Joel-Peter Witkin. It’s disgusting yet memerizing. I can’t explain. There’s also the illustrators: Saul Steinberg, Mark Ryden, and caricaturists Al Hirschfeld, Edward Sorel and Philip Burke.

q)Can we buy your art anywhere?

a) Send me an e-mail and we’ll talk about that.

q)Anything that people should know about that we don’t??

a) The real reason to work is enjoyment. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s useless. So I’m all the time making some inside jokes and allusions that maybe I’m the only one that understands. Anyway, if you saw the jokes, I don’t have to explain them. And if you didn’t, it makes no sense explaining them. It’s like Picasso said: I may explain the painting, but you will understand the explanation, not the painting.

q)What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?

a) Go to a lot of museums. They’re the real universities. You may look at reproductions of a work of art for years, but you won’t understand it until you see it “live”. There you see the scale, the texture, things that make up the real meaning the artist had in mind. And that’s when you learn. You see the artist at work. When you see the brushstroke, you see time. You see him at work. And you learn.

q)What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?

a) Many times you move ahead on automatic pilot. Let’s call it the “craft machine”. But that’s when you weren’t really interested on the work to begin with. If I do have time, I put it on the freezer and wait fot it to come back by itself. I wander off, look at old movie clips on the internet or something like that. Suddenly it reappears on my head and I know what to do.
Other times I just think, “what would so-and-so have done? He usually handles this stuff”. I go and look at other people’s work, see their solutions and learn. And then I go and do my own stuff. It’s just like asking for help.

q)How do you describe your work to those who are unfamiliar with it?

a) Portraits and figures. Old fashioned. Theatrical. With a lot of humour. Cartoonish and serious at the same time. A lot of pop and high culture references. A lot of attention to light and weight. They’re not snapshots, it’s more like standing still or floating on the same spot for ever.

q)What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?

a) I’m mostly self taught. All I know I learnt it from looking at my father working. He’s Hermenegildo Sábat, a well known cartoonist and artist in Argentina. He never told me how to do things. I just watched and learned.

q)Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?

a) Nowadays all editorial illustration must become digital at some point. So I guess I’d get a lot of headaches (and waste much more time) if I had to go back to work on paper for each job. But I’d still be able to do it. What I wouldn’t be able to live without would be the mistery and pleasure of oil painting.

q)Who are your influences?

a) Giotto, Fra Angelico, Leonardo, Memling, Van Eyck, Van der Weyden, Bosch, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Velazquez, Goya, Japanese prints, Rodin, Van Gogh, Picasso, Balthus, Magritte, Max Ernst, Hopper, Bacon, Lucien Freud, August Sander, Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus and Busby Berkeley. And a lot, lot more people in between.

q)What inspires you to create?

a) Having fun. The ideas come on their own. Of course you have to work for them to come. But the ony reason to work on this, for me, is having fun. So have fun working, and ideas will come.

q)…your contacts…

a) avsabat@fibertel.com.ar


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