Christina Saj is a contemporary artist whose abstract paintings reveal a fascination with vivid color and rich patterns. Her distinctly recognizable style calls on modernist roots and an interest in materials. Unlike a lot of modern art, Saj’s work hails beauty to build her vocabulary. She is an iconographer of the future. Her colorful and playful paintings beckon the inner child while remaining in conversation with the old world traditions in which her work is steeped. The work offers the viewer a place of respite and visual joy. Her images allude to the tradition of sacred paintings, informed by her early training and work with Byzantine Iconographer, Petro Kholodny, the Younger, exposing her to ancient methods of painting in egg tempera. Saj holds a BA in Painting from Sarah Lawrence, an MFA from Bard College, and studied Byzantine Art History at Oxford University.
Saj continues adapting and innovating her techniques to engage modern audiences in new ways with the use of unusual materials which expand her reach as a painter. Her work has been widely exhibited, including such venues as the Museum of Biblical Art, The National Cathedral, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC, Union Theological Seminary, The Ukrainian Museum in New York, The Museum of Cultural Heritage (Kiev, Ukraine), The National Museum in Lviv (Ukraine), the American Embassy in Qatar, as well as at the White House. Her works reside in private and museum collections in the US and abroad. She maintains an active studio in New Jersey where she welcomes commissions.
Early in my career, I studied Byzantine Iconography. It is both part of my cultural heritage as well as a longtime, personal fascination with spiritual objects and universal symbols. Using their formal and structural elements as a departure point, I have worked to create paintings in which symbols could be recognized and reinvented so they may reflect the character of the time in which they were created.
I am drawn to geometry, color, and abstract symbols. Every generation searches for its own vocabulary. I feel that one must assimilate knowledge of the past in order to elucidate the present. It is my attempt to create a synthesis of the things which I find meaningful in order to create a new ideal and a personal aesthetic representative of my own generation. I want my imagination to have a memory.
In developing my artistic practice, I have discovered that certain objects often “speak to me”. Sometimes I don’t even know why or where it will lead. But these objects that resonate in a special way — despite seeming quite mundane to the passer-by, usually offer a freedom to explore something I otherwise might not discover. I’ve learned to take these things home and let them clutter my studio and not to question the impulse. Because eventually, a purpose is revealed. It is often entirely subconscious, an act of faith. Sometimes it takes years for them to find their place and other times it’s almost immediate, but it’s usually worth the wait. This response to physical surfaces, texture, and form of objects informs my creativity in a magic way and often gives birth to my next discovery. It is in this spirit of this discovery that new connections and meaning can be created.