Analia Saban Tests the Rules of Painting

By Emily Colucci

Through her diverse practice ranging from wet paint to sculptural molds of towels on canvas to concrete paintings, artist Analia Saban questions the value of painting. Born in Argentina and living and working in Los Angeles, Saban’s work is not only highly conceptual but also playful, adding a palpable sense of humor to her troubling of the rules of art.

Featured in the Art Nova section of Art Basel Miami Beach, the Thomas Solomon Gallery will display, along with works by Ry Rocklen and Ulrich Wulff, Saban’s delicate laser-sculpted painting, “Circuit Board with Architectural Details,” and a concrete slab painting. Creating a fascinating dialogue between these two series at the fair, gallery owner Thomas Solomon explains, “The relationship between the building and the taking way, destroy/create is a part of both of those series.”

We spoke to Analia Saban about the definition of painting, the importance of her studio and the value of art.

One of the works that you’re bringing to Miami is a concrete slab painting. Using a normally sculptural material in a painting, you question the definition of painting. Why does the definition of painting interest you? 
Analia Saban: I wasn’t trained as a painter. In college, you have painting as one area of study, sculpture as another and my program was new genres, which included video, performance and everything. It was interesting to be a student, seeing the painters get more attention, higher positions and more money, and think, “What is it about painting? Why is it so powerful?”

Concrete is about using a material that is so cheap. It’s a surface that is always around us but when you put it vertically, it’s also a painting. It’s about thinking where the work can go within the rules of painting. It’s still hanging on the wall, it’s still a flat surface, it’s still on canvas and so on.

You have also worked with wet paint, sealing the paint in a bag so it remains wet in the gallery. What interests you about wet paint?
I always felt that one of the powers of painting is the material resembles a whole life cycle. It’s wet and fluid at the beginning and then in the end, it dries and it dies in a way. I wanted to explore a different way of looking at painting. I thought it would be fun for the viewer to see the paint wet since its normally something only the artist has access to. Artists love to see wet paint and it provides a lot of pleasure. It was fun to show paint in a more living way.

You also have a series of paintings of towels, bedsheets and other objects around your studio. Through these paintings, the artist’s studio and working environment becomes a part of the gallery. What is the importance of the studio in your work? 
I love my studio. I didn’t think consciously of my studio in these works.  I lived in my studio for many, many years. I just moved out when I just started working on these works six months ago. I was probably trying to reconnect with this place I had for so many years.These were things that I was in touch with every day and looked at their surface, whether it’s the concrete on the floor or the bedsheets every day when you wake up.

There is a real playfulness and sense of fun in your art. Do you think humor is integral to your questioning of the definition of painting?
To have a sense of humor is always healthy. Its not my intention to make fun of painting or to make a joke out of art. I feel the warm embrace of humor is essential to not take things too seriously because of what is at stake.

What do you think is the value of art?
When I was going to school, I was always broke and I’d see Picasso painting selling for $95 million. It makes you think, “What is this? Why?” I understand the history, of course, that Picasso was a genius. But you have to think, it’s also just a piece of fabric with pigments on it. I feel the value of art is going to be an open question forever.

 Images courtesy of Thomas Solomon Gallery, Los Angeles Photo Credit: Brian Forrest