In the wee hours, long after his two little boys have been tucked into bed, Scott Saw holes up in the artists studio hes built in his Cardiff garage. Near canvases in various stages of completion, there are easels and jars filled with brushes and drawers crammed with tape and tools. Thick wax candles flicker by stacks of books and curious objects. Every surface is caked with paint.
This is where youll find Saw most nights from around 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., especially now, as he prepares for his first solo show in five years. Spaces in Between, at Little Italys Subtext Gallery, chronicles Saws life of late, a period bookended by a divorce and a new wife and baby, Jett, who was born on May 11.
Life, like his studio, can get pretty messy.
This body of work is about transitioning from one situation to another, Saw says. Falling in love and the birth of my child have been big ones.
Saws cohesive collection includes richly symbolic oil paintings rife with motifs that have always featured strongly in his work: veins, organs and skulls alongside birds, butterflies and other natural elements, from trees to far-off stars.
His signature red and blue veins, as they branch up and out, appear arboreal and sometimes morph into trees. There are patterns in nature that seem to repeat, he observes. If you look at anything, whether trees or mountains and river valleys from high in the air, you see the same patterns from microscopic to macro levels. Ive always been intrigued by that.
Saw recalls poring over layered anatomy books as a kid, an interest that deepened during college biology classes.
Im obsessed with the way things work, he explains. Here we are in these bodies, and Im always hopeful that theres something more. Im trying to put my finger on what that might be.
Hearts—which crop up frequently in his work—represent life and love and vitality, he says. Thats accurate both biologically and metaphorically. He often mixes hearts with skulls, sometimes seamlessly so that they appear to be a united form.
Its life and death intertwining and how theyre related, he says. The skull is the part of any animals body that represents the form it once took. Its a significant symbol of what something once was.
Within these body parts, caterpillars crawl and hang in cocoons and butterflies flit through crevices. Cultures throughout history have revered Lepidoptera as a powerful symbol of the soul. From the caterpillar to the butterfly—thats the metamorphosis of the heart, Saw says. We get to go through changes. We metamorphosize.
Human transitions may be fraught with grief, like death or divorce, or exuberantly ecstatic, like falling in love or fathering a child. The profundity of these feelings, particularly the good ones, mitigates the most essential fact of the human condition: Were all going to die.
Stars, another common element in Saws work, speak to this truth with both uneasiness and awe. Im always thinking of the idea that were just stardust, he explains. Our universe is just a speck in the larger scheme of things. I try to keep that perspective and I think it helps me throughout my life. It makes you realize how lucky we are to be here in this place and time.The arrival of Jett— half brother to Saws son from his first marriage, 6-year-old Kai—reminded Saw just how amazing our existence truly is. In a way, every one of us is our own universe. Were the summation of so many atoms and cells and moving parts and things that are coming together to create this body. When you bring someone into this world, you can appreciate that on so many levels.
A couple of paintings in the Spaces in Between series are specifically about his baby boy, the logical conclusion to other pieces that are very clearly about desire and sex. What brings something into this world is passion, he says.
At its center, one work features a fecund egg that is almost solar in its glowing presence, surrounded by anxious sperm and fetal skeletons, then bordered by butterfly wings and stars. They suggest limitlessness, Saw says with a papas obvious optimism.
Limitlessness could mean many things, from what we achieve in life to whatever we hope awaits us afterwards. Ive never been to church a day in my life. Never will. But I appreciate the idea that theres something more and try to explore that through my art.
In this new body of work, Saw has embraced mandalas, a form of spiritual art that typically exhibits perfect radial balance. Mandalas are really symmetrical. Harmonious, he says. Im trying to depict the mind and body in harmony.
Balanced is a state Saws worked hard to achieve. In addition to his new wife and baby, he also recently launched his own business, Vixen Photography, transitioning from a day job as a graphic designer to selfemployed pin-up photographer. (You may recall one of his sexy cheesecake pics in CityBeats May 9 Summer Guide issue.)
Saws success as a photographer—hes fielding requests from national tattoo and pinup mags—has given him the freedom to take chances with his art. I dont know how other people will react to [my latest body of work]. But it doesnt matter," he says, adding that he's not relying on art income to support his family.
His sons wont even get to see the show in person. Saw feels that much of the work is inappropriate for children. But [Kai] is watching me as an artist. Hes catching on to my lifestyle. Theres nothing wrong with what Im doing. Im just depicting whats going on in and around my life. When theyre older, theyll appreciate that.
Despite the personal narrative, Saw says much of his work is heavily encrypted. One of my goals is to find a universal message and throw it out there, he says.
As for those pieces that are a little more obvious, Saw smiles wisely. Sometimes youve just got show people your guts.
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