The strength of dreams
by Lilia Fontana
Sebastian Spreng is a man of many paradoxes.
He is a minimalist at heart, but he combines the feeling of isolation of
an Edward Hopper painting with the Color Field technique of a Mark Rothko.
The result is a mixture of components creating an original Spreng.
He has formed a bridge between the psychological and
the physical. The work is a continuous exploration of the evolution and
survival of humankind by finding strength in dreams, hopes, and
aspirations. He creates elaborately rich compositions. His work is
personal, expressing the inner core of human emotions, perhaps expressing
his triumphs over the many obstacles he has overcome.
In his previous work, he portrayed a solitary figure
within a vast seascape. A single swimmer floating alone in the water
created a sense of isolation, while at the same time he appeared to have
no boundaries -possibly a romanticized longing by the artist to set his
own body free. This figure, though small in its surroundings, seemed to
have sway over its environment ? able to float away on a whim, free from
Within his newer work, the swimmer is transferred
into an arbor, and it is juxtaposed within a panoramic landscape that is
somewhat agoraphobic. Many of these landscapes are inspired in the
Argentine pampas, but their aesthetics is definitely American with
European roots and references to the Romantic landscape. Each piece has a
painted line around the composition, creating a self-contained frame
within a frame. Spreng creates for the viewer the illusion of looking
through a window and witnessing his phantasmic world. They are simple
arrangements, where trees become biomorphic forms enclosed in a
Layer upon layer of rich textures create his
surfaces. His compositions generate stillness and a delicate balance of
forms accentuating a harmonious interaction. Spreng´s personal aesthetic
and individual style are unmistakable. He has recontextualized the pampas
into an oneiric American perception, as seen in the piece “Keeping
Distances (An American Portrait).” In this piece, he depicts a series of
contiguous scenes stemming from a train ride he took through his native
Argentina. Vertical lines break up the landscape, recalling the view from
a moving train´s window. It is an oeuvre full of nostalgia and longing.
The piece is elegantly painted with greens and whites creating the
illusion of a faded old photograph.
“Peace” is a depiction of a forest done with
different variations of green. It is inspired in a Wassily Kandinsky
quote, “green is giving and doesn´t ask for anything in return.” Spreng
reevaluates the semiotics of color within the context of the composition,
meticulously reminiscent of the urbanization of the ephemeral landscapes.
“Breaking the Waves” generates a deeply spiritual
experience. Profoundly mimetic of his longings, it is a distant island in
the middle of the ocean, creating a total sense of aloneness in the midst
of a hostile world. It is a boat-like island mimetic of a doomed
The island is compressed between two horizontal
blue shapes, while the brightness in the middle echoes the horizon line.
Though the title implies a rough sea, Spreng provides a calm light after a
storm. The image suggests a sense of optimism that human strength will
prevail against all adversities.
In “The Mammoths of Memory”, Spreng transforms his
trees to characterize giant mammoths alluding to memory´s overwhelming
persecution of thought. Spreng places a white line going off into
infinity, representing the journeys of times gone by and the haunting
imprint of those travels.
The sturdy ruggedness of these firmly
planted compositions perhaps reveals an evolution within the artist. The
trees are the survivors of all the uncertainties life can pose; not even
swayed by heavy turmoil will their roots be loosened.
They are firmly planted and will survive. The work is
a personal decree from the artist, a work that seems to state,” I,
Sebastian Spreng, am master of my life and master of my world.”