Writing and Painting About Chamber Music

  • The Miami Herald

    Monday  March 27 1995

    Writing and painting about Chamber Music


    By Elisa Turner

    In this porous city, swirling with the accents and customs of many cultures Sebastian Spreng seems specially at home: a man with a porous imagination who moves freely among the worlds of music, painting and language, multicultural in a way most of us never dream of becoming. Chamber Music, Spreng’s show of oil paintings on display at the Americas Collection in Coral Gables is a splendid example of that rich confluence. His work features atmospheric landscapes with fabulous gardens seen from a distance and shimmering expanses of water in which a solitary swimmer often floats. They speak of interior worlds where the imagination roams free.

    “I paint my interior landscapes. By coincidence[they are]landscapes I’m living now”he says refering to Miami’s tropical luxuriance and his attraction to its”strange oniric summer nights”. “It’s like what I have inside”.

    Even though his work is at time more sweet than compelling, Spreng wields a restrained vocabulary with great sensitivity. And the pieces are indeed analogous to the chamber music of the exhibition’s title: intimate and subtle with finely etched repetitions and variations.

    What’s equally fascinanting is the way music and water have shaped Spreng’s own artistic sensibility. He recalls visiting Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires’s turn-of-the-century  opera house as a high schooler.

    “We toured the bowels of the theatre”he says”The orchestra was 10 meters above us playing Wagner and the music was like water falling over us, as if you could touch it. My love for music started there, it was so important in cultivating a sensibility”.


    If his feeling for music developed during high school, Spreng’s longing for marine vistan begun much earlier during his childhood in the Santa Fe province. “I was always fascinated by the ocean,always”he says”In Argentina I lived in the middle of an ocean of wheat, the pampas”. As a child he drew and painted obsessively making maps of imaginary countries. There was much time for these solitary pursuits snce Spreng had had trouble walking from the age 3.


    Only when pressed will he talk about his disability. Spreng prefers to talk about his newest work, a group of nine paintings comissioned by Metro-Dade’s Art in Public Places program. The works to be unveiled this fall will hang in the Stephen Clark Government Center as a memorial to George Armitage, a local advocate for the disabled who died in 1991.

    “There will be three levels of paintings to form a puzzle-like a big painting since I cannot paint big”Spreng says of his serial composition “This disadvantage gives me an advantage..I try to see my whole life like this. The lower levels are webs, labyrinths, jail. The figure inside is very dark. In the upper levels you have this magnificent ocean”. In the ocean Spreng will paint a swimmer, a reference to the one activitiy in which he himself can move freely. He’s not concerned that his work will hang in this specific context “Everybody has some kind of handicap”he says adding that the series is really about “the path from darkness to light”.

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