A Poster Worth a Thousand Words. Talking with Saddo
I’m part of a generation totally up to date with everything that is going on, especially in creative industries, where so many cool things are starting to happen. Things that pique our curiosity, get us out of the house, and invite us to reflect and ask questions. In this creative bubble I live and breathe in, it is impossible not to know SADDO – the artist who took social media by surprise with his portraits of famous contemporary rappers, painted in bold colours and contrasts, framed by borders rich in details and symbols inspired by their lives. And if you know who SADDO is, you also know how particular his style is.
When I saw the poster for Arsenie. An Amazing Afterlife, the latest documentary by Alecu Solomon which was screened this summer at TIFF and Karlovy Vary, I had no doubt who created it, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out more about the man behind the artwork. Out came a short interview about cinema, religion, and, of course, his work on his first film poster, made in collaboration with his peers from Glitch Shop.
I know you are passionate about cinema, you even have an album on Facebook with film recommendations. When did your relationship with cinema begin and how did it grow?
I have always been a movie fan, when I was little I dreamed of being an actor, or a director. Drawing seemed more tangible to me, because I knew I could draw, whereas film seemed rather an abstract field, and it remained just a passion. As a kid, I was into sci-fi and horror movies. Then, in college, I started going to the French Cultural Center where you could watch arthouse films.
I remember seeing Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev with French subtitles – I didn’t know Russian or French, but it’s such a visual film that I don’t think it even matters if you understand the dialogue or not.
How did you come to collaborate with Alecu Solomon for his documentary about Arsenie Boca?
Cosmin Simionescu (Glitch): He came to us and asked us to create a campaign from A to Z. We chose several illustrators and artists, and they’ve all drawn their own portraits of Arsenie. We sought to depict the clash between religion and urban culture. Saddo’s artwork is used as the main poster, the rest are part of the campaign that we will launch with the film.
Of all the creations, Alecu liked Saddo’s vision the most. We were very happy about that. It turned out to be something different. We arrived at this version after going through several ideas.
I think it’s really cool how you combine colors and create frames for each portrait, using elements in connection to the subject. It’s your signature style, which is quite unique in Romania. This is your first film poster, did you have any clear guidelines for it?
Saddo: The frames I create are commonly found in Orthodox art, in Byzantine icons. I think that helped. We didn’t have any guidelines, we started with a sketch and further developed it. We even had some creepier versions. There was also a version with a headline – Cinema or Blasphemy – and I imagined it as a news banner because the film also features footage from TV shows and newscasts. Then we played with color palettes, Alecu wanted something more popping, more artsy.
Alecu said he wanted the poster to look like a traditional Romanian rug. (Cosmin, Glitch)
The tears and the stars in his beard, what do they mean?
Saddo: The tears are a reference to this painting of Arsenie Boca crying that appears in the film. And the idea of the stars in his beard came from a character in the film who says that when Arsenie Boca combed his beard, sparks would fly out of it. Like it was some sort of magic.
Cosmin S: All of the elements in the poster are related to the film.
Saddo: Even the Romanian flags – there’s a shot of a souvenir magazine that has in one corners some Romanian flags. Not all elements necessarily have to do with Arsenie Boca, some are related to the people in the film. If I had to simply draw a portrait of Arsenie Boca, it would have been a bit boring, but with all these elements, I found it interesting. I feel much more comfortable doing complex things.
What did you like most about Arsenie. An Amazing Afterlife?
I liked that it’s more about the pilgrims than Arsenie Boca. He only seems to be a reason to bring together very different people, each of whom could be a film character on their own. It’s a road movie, a documentary film, and a form of therapy for the protagonists – all in one. I liked that about it because my works too are a collection of contrasting and different things.
Your style is so particular that I believe it would be very difficult to replicate it in future collaborations with film directors. Are film posters something you would like to explore more in the future?
Yes. I find that my style and the borders I create, which can contain an entire narrative, are very versatile and adaptable to various subjects, genres, and styles. I’ve previously worked with Maria Popistașu on a poster for a theater play (Gruesome Playground Injuries) staged at Apollo – they wanted it to look like an ’80s horror VHS tape cover. I like horror movies so it was a perfect match. I did the illustration, and Alex Baciu did the poster design.
You are an internationally recognized artist, but in Romania, your series of rapper portraits was the most viral exhibition, so far. Are you currently working on something new?
I want to do a sequel to the Fanboy exhibition, but I’ve postponed it to explore different mediums, such as sculpture, ceramics, and tapestry. I want to give it as much time as possible, I don’t want to work under pressure. The exhibition is theoretically scheduled for early next year, at the Mobius Gallery.
Film producer and founder of ADFR, she dreamed since she was little of having a magazine one day. Alongside her job as editor-in-chief, she writes the interview of the month. She loves animals, jazz music and films festivals.
Arsenie. An amazing afterlife
A dead monk’s gaze is hypnotizing the masses, becoming a highly profitable brand. As the Romanian church decides to sanctify him, we embark on a fictionalized pilgrimage that leads us with humour and fantasy through our present confusion and global fears.