The roots of Saban’s practice can be traced to one of her earliest series, in which she dismantled dozens of painted canvases, unweaving their surfaces thread by thread, then reshaping them into objects such as a knitted scarf and a massive, tightly-wound sphere entitled The Painting Ball (2005)—new forms that call into question the value of works of art once they are reduced to their basic components. Traditionally paintings are created using brushstrokes that are applied one after the other to gradually construct an image. In Saban’s hands, however, brushstrokes might be created individually—as miniature, three-dimensional sculptures—and then affixed to canvas with glue or tape; or they may be painted onto canvas, but then burnt away with an industrial laser-cutter in calculated patterns, generating imagery via a subtractive, rather than an additive, process.
As complex as her approach may be, the imagery she employs often relates to everyday domestic objects and architectures. Using a casting technique she developed in 2011, Saban created three-dimensional sculptures of towels, trash bags and bed sheets out of flexible acrylic paint, which she then draped over canvases in a performative, literal rendition of “acrylic on canvas.” In other series, the artist affixes slabs of stone, glass and concrete to linen supports, recalling the shape of sinks and the foundations of houses. The simplicity of these references belies the intricate constellation of issues that Saban offers her viewers. One must consider, for example, why a cast dishtowel—stripped of its use-value when made of paint—attains a different, ineffable value as a work of art once placed in an artistic context.
Saban’s sculptural work has likewise involved pushing materials far beyond their intended purposes. She has reupholstered old chairs and sofas with yards of linen canvas, whose loose ends extend onto stretcher bars mounted to the wall mimicking blank canvases. Her Draped Marble and Draped Concrete series (2014–16) treat hard slabs of stone like flowing fabric, cracking and bending them to drape gracefully over sawhorse-like structures and, in turn, invoking the long histories of both stone sculpture and painted drapery.
In 2016 the artist acquired a loom, interested originally in its distinct form rather than its function. Yet Saban soon set to work reimagining once more how paintings are made: rather than applying paint to canvas, she creates swollen “threads” of dried acrylic paint that are methodically woven together with linen to produce works in which paint and canvas are literally entwined. Certain of her woven canvases are purely abstract compositions, engaging with the history of minimalist painting; while others suggest doorways and windows, or even digital gradient imaging functions native to Photoshop. Saban’s discovery that the history of weaving and computer technology are inextricably linked has led to increasingly complex tapestries and ink-and-paper works based on the designs of historical circuit boards; and actual circuit boards themselves have become recent material for Saban’s ever-evolving practice, which continues to tackle fundamental questions about art and its meaning within contemporary society.