Tornadoes of stone and fire, dancing figures that twirl dreamily on amorphous discs of pure air, landscapes that fade lazily into the haze. This is one’s immediate impression when drinking in the fantastic yet weighty paintings of Mark Spencer. Richly suggestive, imbued with imagination, his work arrests the viewer’s attention with a magnetism created primarily through the tension that arises when sophistication meets playful naivety. Spencer’s imagery has been described as spiritual, feminine, dream-like, eternal, and psychological. Although fantasy and whimsy certainly steal the spotlight, there is a persistent undercurrent of meaning and value that demands equal attention. If it is the magnificent palette and unique subject matter that draws one in, it is certainly the promise of an underlying, but very powerful, significance that holds one’s attention.
Trained at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1971, Spencer found inspiration in such disparate artists as Franz Kline, Max Ernst, Jose Clemente Orozco, Francis Bacon, and even ancient Greek sculpture. Although Surrealism and the legacy of Salvador Dali certainly stake out their territory within Spencer’s oeuvre, he prefers his work to be described as “Neoclassical-Surrealism”. His work is bound more to the late nineteenth-century symbolic roots of Surrealism than the movement itself. Still, the paintings are undoubtedly original and highly contemporary.
Drawn and Tempered will include around 24 of Spencer’s pieces, mostly new works. A large portion of the show will feature oil on paper pieces from Spencer’s Whirlwind Series, along with his oils on canvas and panel. Regarding the Whirlwind Series, Spencer explains that his “love of drawing; the immediacy, the spontaneity and suggestive quality of it enable me to evoke the whirlwind that is our times. Drawing with paint, with color, tempers the action and enhances a sense of urgency.”