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"One should not be afraid of one's own inner voice, one should listen to it."

Max Sauco was born in 1969, Irkutsk, Siberia, USSR. He spent his childhood in a quiet place surrounded by tall pine trees almost like in a forest, at the house of geologists-romantics and spent most of his days outdoors. For sure he spent his childhood in some alternative reality which was nothing like the reality of grownups, he literally talked to and befriended little stones, little branches and ants, and visited magical worlds.

 After leaving school he entered the Irkutsk College of the Arts. From 1987 to 1989 he served in the Soviet Army. In 1992 he gained a degree in professional graphic design. Max Sauco’s basic feature is photography, his works stand out for heavy digital manipulation. Using digital manipulation, Sauco creates dreamy and nightmarish worlds, playing with the conscious and subconscious, prejudices and common beliefs.  Photoshop is his brush, his irreplaceable tool -without it, Max Sauco would not exist or would be able to do anything else.   

Max Sauco.  Simply amazing.  He is the type of artist that stirs up in you every type of emotion that you can possibly ever feel.  And all this is done in each of his artworks.  He brings before you the deepest secrets, the most obscene desires, the darkest truth, the most perverted innocence, the haunted past you thought everyone forgot, and in the most majestic way -he displays that intense love that we often forget we are capable of being and experiencing.  Through his art, Max Sauco expresses what we love, what we fear, what we want, what we are capable of (and sometimes don’t know it), what we are ashamed of, what drives us, what triggers us.  His art has that magic that allows us to transcend our realities.         

Q. What styles and artistic movements are reflected in your painting

A. Surrealism, hyperrealism, photo manipulation, mystery and esoteric.

Q. Share with us some of the highlights of your artistic career?

A. I’ve always been quite neutral about my exhibition, awards, and titles.

Q. What role does the artist have in society?  

A. Main task of an artist is to bring God’s love and beauty to this world.

Q. What’s your best childhood memory?  

A. I was two years old, spying at a woman educator in my kindergarten through a tiny gap of a slightly opened door. She was changing, she was giant, very tall, almost reaching the sky woman with huge breasts. I was charmed and decided to open the door just a little bit more with my tiny finger, but she noticed me and quickly slammed the door breaking the index finger of my right hand. It hurt a lot. I still experience pain in this finger, especially when I’m drawing something.

When I was 11 the police archive of criminal cases was destroyed by the fire next to our house. After the firemen left, a few other kids and I discovered heaps of undamaged file folders. We spent the rest of the long summer evenings watching photos of killed and disaggregated women in different poses from different angles, we all felt empathy for them. I think that also had an impact on my art.

Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?

A. First, I wanted to become a lizard, then at the age of six I wanted to be an American Indian, at nine - a paleontologist, at thirteen - a surgeon. As early as in grade six or so I knew absolutely well that I wanted to be a surgeon and nobody else.  I used to hammer at anatomical charts, I knew every single bone in a human body, everything was very serious indeed. But somehow, at the very last moment I applied for enrollment in the Irkutsk College of the Arts although I had no experience even of a common art school while the competition that year was 11 applicants per place. Still it occurred somehow that I was matriculated and at that moment I realized: that was my destiny. Everything I can do originates from those studies: knowledge of design, drawing, painting, plastic art, surface anatomy, photography, art history - just everything. Years of studies were so saturated and exciting that I had not a single thought about anything beyond art.

Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?

A. As far as I remember I was into drawing since I was two years old, maybe even earlier, but of course I didn’t realize what I was doing at that time.

From what I do remember, is when I was six that I discovered a photo of an ancient Greek statue from two different angles (Venus de Milo I think) in some art encyclopedia. Afterward, I tried to recreate it using clay and according to my grandmother’s reaction that was quite a success.

Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?

A. I’ve been always interested in art. From second grade at school, I attended drawing and painting classes, over there I also learned art history. I had a very good teacher, he, I believe, inculcated me deeper into art and brought up a good taste.

Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it?  

A. When I was 15, I found photo slides of Salvador Dali’s works (this kind of art was censored in USSR). That discovery was the greatest shock in my life, I think that is when I seriously wanted to become an artist. Around the same time, I came across photo artworks of Jan Saudek, one got into another and it all started.

At 17, throwing away thoughts of a career as a surgeon, I enrolled in art college in the design department. Over there I got some experience in academic drawing, painting, sculpture and other subjects. After the first year, I had to leave for the Soviet army where I spent another two years. I have to say that it was not possible to find a more surreal place than that. Most of my time there I was working as an artist, Soviet propaganda, militarism and so on. Over there I created my first painting in my own style, it happened on my 20th birthday ‪on the 23rd of January. A big piece, 3 by 4 meters, naked people with guns, flying objects, monsters, loads of symbols. I was working on it for 48 hours straight like crazy. A bit later I found out that on this day Salvador Dali died. I assume his soul was flying around the earth at that moment.

Later on, I got interested in astrophysiology, esoterica, read all books of Carlos Castaneda and even created a few artworks on that topic. I was developing in that direction and painting on canvas. Once a month, a collector-broker would come to our small town to buy my artworks in return for money and would usually resell to Japan.

In 1997 I came across Photoshop - the greatest invention of human beings, that completely changed it all. Now I could create without any frames and dig deeper into the art of photography.

Every picture of mine necessarily includes a naked woman's body, it was always a mystery for myself, I didn’t know why and what for. However, only a couple of years ago one astrologist in India explained to me that I have a karmic task to draw Goddesses and feminine Gods, and here the puzzle was completed. The funny part is that he has never seen my work.

Q. What does your art aim to express?  

A. I don’t think there is any particular target. The least of my thoughts are about the viewers. For me, hours spent working are more like deep and high-quality meditation. There is no need to make anything up, everything needed is already there. Although before publishing an art piece I still adapt it for the viewer, because sometimes it comes out to be too rough and frank.


Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?

A. Laziness, hesitation, and guilt.

Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?

A. I had to sacrifice a career for everything else.

Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?

A. Certainly it’s Bosch, Dali, Saudek, Sandorfi and there are many modern artists and photographers.

Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

A. Loneliness is when you don’t have time and a chance to create.

Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing?

A. I love to travel a lot, look at nature, animal life and the architecture of different countries.

Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?

A. Art is the words of God spoken through a creator. We, artists, are just the middle man.

Q. What does 'success' mean to you?

A. I am not sure.


Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?

A. There is only one moment between past and future, and the name of that moment is life.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?

A. Someone from the elderly - keep it simple.

Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?

A. Be better, more honest and kinder than your ancestors.