Steve Sangapore’s paintings aren’t limited by the shape of a typical rectangular canvas. The 27-year-old artist, of Newton, assembles canvases and wood panels to create a unique geometry before he begins painting. But the process can require a significant commitment of time (each piece can take up to four months), space, and money — so Sangapore recently began printing some of his works on skateboards, the likes of which can be found on the artist’s Instagram (@stevesangapore). “I wanted to create something that was not only affordably accessible but that was functional, too,” Sangapore said. The artist spoke with the Globe about his latest series of paintings, inspiration, and his creative process.
Q. How would you describe your work?
A. I would say neosurrealism would probably be the best umbrella, though a lot of it isn’t necessarily traditionally surrealist. I think that would be the closest genre to sort of put it in. I started a new series recently that I’m in the middle of that I already have a few installments with, called “Superposition,” and that is definitely less surrealist than pretty much all of the work I’ve done up until this point. [In “Superposition”] I’ve basically combined realism with pure line abstractions [side-by-side]. I wouldn’t call the recent stuff that I’ve been doing surrealist, but basically a combination of realism and line abstractions, which is a completely different direction than anything that I’ve ever done, so it’s been a fun challenge. It’s definitely a body of work that I’m really excited to have started recently.
Q. Can you tell me a bit more about “Superposition”?
A. I did a weeklong painting intensive with the visionary artist Alex Grey and his wife, and it was, I mean, not only one of the greatest creative experiences I’ve had (it was a month ago, in July) — it opened up whole new vistas of creative potential and possibility, and I was able to work with about 20 other artists, and it was a really refreshing event that allowed me to really hone in on really specific ideas. The surrealist work that I was doing up until this new series was kind of taking a bunch of ideas and putting them on to a single panel, or a single piece with individual panels, so each piece isn’t necessarily representative of one coherent idea — it’s kind of just several different ideas put together loosely, whereas this new series is very direct and has very pungent themes, comparatively speaking.
Q. How would you describe your creative process?
A. Typically, I’ll take time off from doing any work and essentially gather as much inspiration around a given idea as possible, and then execute from there. So I’ll take maybe a month off from painting and then invest three to four months in just cranking out as much work as possible. And sometimes that’s only one painting, depending on the size and the intricacy of the piece. I kind of have, in a sense, a slightly less-than-traditional creative process. I’m definitely not the type that typically carries a sketchbook around, constantly trying to capture things. The process is very calculated and clean I’ve spent a lot of time talking with artists over the years — it’s not a very typical process, for sure.
Q. What inspires you?
A. Usually, I’m just inspired by things that interest me. A lot of my work focuses on contemporary science and philosophy — there’s certainly a lot of elements of that that interest me that I put directly into the work in order to reinforce an idea. The themes that I’m normally working with are very deep issues and are very difficult to represent visually, so it definitely takes a lot of calculation and planning and articulation with producing visually some of the ideas. For example, one might be free will versus determinism. That’s something that can certainly be talked about or written about, but it’s very hard to represent something abstract like that visually.