pt. 2 Gallery is excited to present The Slow Clock, an exhibit of paintings by Oakland-based artist Sam Spano. Pulling images from real life experiences and a range of photographic source material, Spano creates stylized paintings frequently featuring women, men, and animals that are often humorous and romantic. Expressively rendered with a particular focus on bold colors, composition and surface texture, the people in his paintings are often caught in the middle of introspective solitary moments, mundane daily activities, or surreal dreams. Animals are often featured as playful and loyal companions, psychological projections of the figures in the paintings, or avatars for the artist himself.
Spano provided a narrative behind the works, which reflect a personal journey over the last year:
“When I was a kid, my mom read the book “The Secret Garden” to me. It pops into my head every now and then during extended periods in my studio.
I titled this show The Slow Clock when I first began sketching ideas that went into the majority of these paintings about 5 months ago, as the days began getting shorter and darker, meaning depression was creeping around the corner. At the time, the title referred mostly to the act of painting itself, as I didn’t yet know what the final paintings in the show would be. Giving something a title at least gives me a grounding force to meditate on.
I was in a dark and uncertain period of my life, due to circumstances beyond my control, circumstances of life moving rapidly forward in a way that suddenly scared me. The concept of slowing time was on my mind. Everything else felt chaotic.
Oil painting is all about slow time. The paint changes as it oxidizes, and like a good chili or stew, an oil painting only gets better when it has time to congeal. I can take days or weeks to alter brushstrokes or change colors. I often wipe away paintings that seem too forced, or I’ll paint over dry unsuccessful canvases. Oil paint allows me to treat my work this way, it gives me time to keep searching for the “right” image. It rewards patience. My studio is in my apartment and living with my paintings lets me tend to them like plants.
This work has a wide range of formal influences including Francis Picabia’s ‘transparency’ paintings, swanky 1970’s magazine advertisements and women’s fashion illustrations, Pre-Raphaelite painting, the portraits of Chaim Soutine and the drawings of Dorothy Iannone. A common theme among all of these is an almost obscene celebration of natural and romantic themes, decorative flourishes, and fantastic color.
Each new body of work is its own season; an accumulation of observations and reactions to people, places and events around me, aesthetic interests, some fleeting and some long-lasting. All of it is guided by intuition. When I start a body of work, I have to sketch and draw every day in order to see re-occurring themes. This keeps things at a somewhat unconscious level and adds a sense of mystery to the act of painting, which I need. It’s clear now that I was craving spring. The colors in this body of work began with the burnt oranges and deep reds of fall, slowly making way to rainy day blues and grass greens of springtime. I suppose I was craving rejuvenation that, at the time, I could only find through my work. By creating my own paradise, a secret garden for me and my loved ones, time could slow down, we could all sit still, and everyone would heal.”