One of the most passionate, articulate and important individuals ever to grace an art form Saber needs very little introduction, his intricate and giant style find form in everything from pure abstraction to confrontational political action. Whilst the glory days of record breaking pieces may be behind him, he retains an honesty whose clarity is a cutting as ever. I had the pleasure of speaking to him about progress, parenthood and politics.
You see high art taking bits and pieces of our aesthetic and regurgitating it back out making a lot of money. Apparently it’s trendy. We earned the right to use these aesthetics over anyone else. Certain people paid a higher price than others to learn these things. I see value in an artists struggle.
Obviously being such a veteran writer, has graffiti taught you anything lasting about the way the world works? Any distinct positives and negatives?
It’s been a long road….. destroy, rebuild, tear it down again. Positive, it teaches you about yourself. Negative, it teaches you about yourself…..
Graffiti and art is microcosm to the wider world. Cities functions, politics, socioeconomics. When you can travel to any city in the world and not know the language but can tell you what exactly is going on there just by reading the walls, you know you’ve stumbled upon something powerful. Over time it reveals deep insight. It’s a journey, a life’s path that can be applied to the self.
I’ve found that the confidence it gives you is a subtle but pervading one, a kind of whole body assuredness which opens up the world beyond societal boundaries but obviously whose flip side is a pronounced paranoia….
As far as lessons goes, little lessons on how to assimilate into different environment/people/situations. Learned how to steal in plain sight….
The confidence side of this lesson learning is something that shifts, some days I feel like I’m completely unstoppable, and other days I feel like the world is standing on my neck. The strongest thing that I can take away from this is how to push yourself towards a goal or task.
Not to mention the actual physical learning lessons of engaging the creative process. I believe painting large scale graffiti pieces has given me an edge over the traditional sense.
How would you describe your style and approach? has it changed since you began?
If you were to take a snap shot of a moving powerful energy source in battle stance. Intricacies, connections, flow, tech. Go big, paint hard.
I’ve always had this strange cluster in my head. Been there since I saw my first wildstyle as a kid. I am fascinated with the esoteric language letters and abstraction unveils to you. My style hasn’t necessarily changed but grew and expanded overtime.
Can you remember what this first wildstyle was? I’ve always been fascinated by abstract and the more illegible side of wildstyle as it appeared to communicate more of an attitude concerning its history and environment than it did pure letter science. What are / were you more concerned with? Letters or message?
The first wildstyle I saw in person was at the Belmont Tunnels 1989.
I saw power in these pieces. I felt this art form was a pathway to something deeper. I’ve always obsessed over the complexities of letters, it’s esoteric nature of math and abstraction. The complex aggressive styles always attracted me. I believed the letters were the message in the sense that the letters led me to search for a message. The two are inseparable.
What keeps you going? In both graffiti and life. what keeps me going….. lots of coffee, weed and the hope of success. Securing a future for my family. Making some sort of impact in art, and sharing inspiration.
When I started this the there was no hope for a future. No outlets, opportunities. No one gave a fuck. Now it’s possible to see an in on an end game or enough substance to create a strategy to plan for a future. You are never good enough till that check clears.
Fuck your wack ass girl portrait, I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THESE WACK ASS PRETTY GIRL PORTRAITS, this isn’t a make up add for prepubesant teenage Beiliber fans. These Street Art walls personally look nicer to me blasted with a fire extinguisher, little community outreach program.
You’re an artist who has managed to retain a distinct visual language over the course of your career, what is it that continues to inspire you about these forms? Is there something you find youre trying to tap into?
What keeps me inspired is knowing that I am still not good enough as a painter or I am still evolving, wanting to see where this art takes me, what I might come up with next. I think when I paint I search for something deeper, what that is, I’m not quite sure yet other than there is a riddle that is still unsolved within me and painting is the best way for me to work these problems out. This distinct style that I have is the representation of this search for a deeper source. What ever the fuck that means…..
You spoke openly in a conversation with revok for Juxtapoz a few years ago about how you feel “art has lost touch with society”. Not necessarily reality but society, which seems a more distinct and palpable loss – being such an openly political individual and ambassador for the arts, is this something you still believe?
The beauty of art is, it usually reflects the individuals ideas and circumstances. As a microcosm art reflects all aspects of society.
As far as what is exceptable, gets celebrated and what generates recognition, the elite run that narrative as long as they line thier pockets first. Hunger Games….
Obviously you’ve been collaborating on some big mural projects with Zes, how do your two distinct creative processes gel together?
I’ve learned a lot about painting from Zes, but most importantly I’ve learned plenty of life’s lessons from him as well. I believe Zes is one of the most important artists of our generation, his story has yet to be told properly. When we paint together we don’t even need to talk. We just paint. Our work is different but derives from the same place. Texture, layers, buffs, fat caps all piling on top of each other.
How have you reconciled being a graffiti artist and parent? The two can seem so incompatible, are you passing on any lessons?
#7 as far as graffiti goes I’m not out there anymore. I can’t constantly claim the use of the word graffiti to describe myself or my work. It has to be constantly earned and a big part of me has moved on. I gave everything I could to this even to my own detriment and well being. Quit frankly I’ve been bored with it for a while and if I’m not going to go out and do some real shit than fuck it. Let the new generation have it.
I’m 40, two kids, been through hell and back. I’m lucky to be alive.
I write on shit when I can. I’ll sneak in a little tag with my baby girl just to open her up to it. If I can paint a train somewhere then great.
For me it was a volatile lifestyle. All that young tuff guy shit doesn’t work when kids are hungry, diapers need changing and bills are do. Graffiti can be the most selfish act. I don’t have the luxury of being selfish anymore when people lives depend on you. Back when I was a feral dog I thought graffiti was my legacy. Now that I am a domesticated animal my legacy lies with my family’s future and my art.
The lessons I pass on to my kids are more about how I see the world then apply accordingly.
What would you say your influences are these days?
Art in general. I like seeing where this post graffiti art movement is going. I like to see what’s new out there. The only problem is every thing is so fucking saturated now. How to find something special umongst a pile of steaming shit is the trick. I have extra sensory perceptors to seek out authenticity and sift through the rubble of infested garbage. It’s a special gift I have.
Shit that almost sounded like a Trump rambling….
What ever puts me a good mood I’ll use as inspiration….. fucking butterflies..
What led you to become bored with graffiti? Would you feel it’s more that you got what you primarily wanted out of it? Or was there some part that you grew majorly dissatisfied with? (politics etc..?)
I guess I am not necessarily bored with graffiti, well fuck I guess In general yes, I am bored with some of it. Let’s be honest kids, what makes your endless scrawlings any different than the 50,000 names on that wall, with no understanding of lineage. Or your 1000 attempt to paint that same fucking limp piece in a safe community sanctioned streetart playground while posing for endless insta selfies.
Don’t get me wrong, my eyes are fixated to these sticky bathroom stalls and gas station pumps covered with scrawls. I still break my neck looking at rooftops on the freeways almost rear ending the fucker in front of me. I will always love graffiti even the worst of it.
And how do YOU differentiate yourself from that weak wet moldy commercial attempt at streetart that has the general average public excited to “support safe art”. Fuck your wack ass girl portrait, I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THESE WACK ASS PRETTY GIRL PORTRAITS, this isn’t a make up add for prepubesant teenage Beiliber fans. These Street Art walls personally look nicer to me blasted with a fire extinguisher, little community outreach program.
What makes your story more compelling than the OG’S who built this movement. Your struggle doesn’t mean shit to anyone when you are trying to fullfill this fake bro ego fantasy of being “a beast” to your small circle of circle jerkers without any substance other than the amount of blunts you smoked.
Now if it is done illegally even if it sucks it still gets a few power points. But it still sucks.
But I still like you…
The point is we compelled each other as crew and as art movent to test our boundaries creatively. These boundaries have been explored like the insides of an old saloon whore. How are you as the new generation going you contribute to the greater good of this art moment. This is one of the reasons many of us are exploring art, new boundaries new possibilities. This shit was turned out 25 years ago, when I started it was all ready past it’s prime. To be turning 40 and still introduce myself as Saber to another adult feels like I’m trying to hold onto some unfulfilled comic book hero fantasy. This has become a commodity, a fashion insta show. Authenticity is surrounded by herds of low frequency clones searching to mimic and appropriate something they have very little understanding of.
And yes you have to paint a thousand pieces or write your name ten thousand times to get anywhere for yourself, as long as you know your roots and cultivate a bigger vision for your self the path is laid before you. Otherwise you are just another sheep participating in whoring of this culture for fleeting extra likes on your insta post.
Innovation is key. To find authenticity you have to be honest with yourself and your work and the people around you
How would you describe your journey / history in 3 words?
Can’t. Answer. That….