In Matt Saba’s still life painting, “Hawkins,” a purple cabbage rests in a green bowl, surrounded by empty glass bottles. The cabbage, however, is merely a suggestion; the bowl is barely there, more of a wisp of what could be and the bottles, well, they’re simply dissolving into the ether. “In my painting, I try to elevate ordinary objects to heavenly levels of majesty,” said Saba of the mystical edginess of his approach. Yes, he’s using real objects that, as he puts it, lack contrivance, however, when placed in spiraling arrangements and painted with a lightness that is at once revealing and obscuring it makes the viewer reconsider the ordinary, indeed, reconsider one’s own perception. “It is in a way,” he said, “the personification of time, in my eyes.”
A Colorado native, Saba is primarily self-taught. “The disadvantage to this,” he said, “is that you start out stumbling around in the dark for some time until you figure out how to build a torch; all progress rests solely on your own shoulders. The advantage, however, is that you’re free to chase down whatever interests you. I love American photography, for example, and musical structure, advertising, film, Hellenistic sculpture, and run down houses—anything that exudes the feeling of time and narrative.”
Part of Saba’s self-education, interestingly, involved a habit he developed while living in New York City. “I used to sneak into classes with friends who attended the School of Visual Arts and the Pratt Institute. When I moved back I started sneaking into art history classes and industrial design courses at Metro State.” After a year of that, he made his way to the Art Students League of Denver where he met artists Andrea Kemp, Quang Ho and Daniel Sprick. “I became friends and painted with Andrea,” he said, “and through her I meet Dan. I attended drawing classes he frequented and sometimes taught. And I’ve tried to attend as many painting demos with Quang as possible.” Saba has also reached out to such artists as Kent Williams, Jeremy Geddes and George Pratt, all of whom have graciously offered technical advice and encouragement.
Saba’s fine art career has been influenced by so many aspects of his life from graphic design work on video games to video production, as well as storyboarding, product packaging design, teaching and bartending occasionally. Ultimately, he’s come to accept his non-traditional route into the arts as part of the new generation’s way of consuming information. “We’ve had the benefit of growing up with the Internet as a learning and exploring tool,” he said. “At my fingertips is every major work of art. I can download Solomon J Solomon’s “The Practice of Oil Painting and Drawing” for free, from Google books. I can display my work on a platform equal to every other artist in history. As a neophyte, it’s a great time to be alive.”