The Americas Collection
Author: Carol Damian
ArtNexus No. 36 – May 2000
Sebastian Spreng has always looked to the serene beauty of nature with her tropical landscapes and azure blue seas, as his inspiration. In this exhibition of recent works, his romantic response to land, sea and sky is enhanced by elusive references to ancient mythology that manifest themselves in quiet luminous voids and tonalities that range from the most subtle to the most dramatic. Laden with symbolic content associated with the marvelous personae of Greek legend, soft and sensuous colors now give way to passionate overtones for seductive effects and allusions to a mysterious content.
To achieve these effects, Spreng applies his colors to finely prepared gesso surfaces. The rich textures that result from this technique augment the imagery while freeing his work from any merely descriptive restraints. The artist transcends the pictorial to create a vision of sublime imagination that harks back to the fantasies of ancient legend. Spreng understands the delicate relationship between experience and imagination and brings it to his work.
Land and sea often appear as a mirage, distorted by the atmosphere and broken flecks of color, while his thick impastos and velvety backgrounds allow the surfaces to retain a strange luminescence. Such effects capture the idyllic mood of legend. Daphne is transformed into a laurel tree in Daphne, 1999, and only a wreath remains. Galatea awaits her fate as a wisp of silent color, and the landscape of nymphs and satyrs come to life as beautiful colors deep within shades of chiaroscuro. The simplicity of his vision is in stark contrast to the depth of his intellectualism. Mythical Pond, 1999, is laden with incipient Romanticism as every brushstroke reverberates with melancholy and mystical experiences. Human passions become relegated to the domain of nature, and man either stands in silent worship or is devoured by her tempestuousness. Even cloud formations and garden vistas are transformed into mysterious abstractions with a rich incandescence. This exhibition reveals the artist’s ability to not only capture every mood, but to invest his paintings with the vagaries of life and drama of the ancients.