Interview: Giving Pop Culture A Fine Art Touch With Artist Sam Evans
Wrestling, The Sopranos, Point Break and more meet the canvas.
Mad Love
Words by Harry Webber June 20, 2024

All images by Sam Evans //

Sam Evans chats to us about re-imagining the most iconic scenes in pop culture, AI, and what actually happened at the end of The Sopranos.

Our memories are often nothing more than a blurry rendering of things that actually happened. We can maybe hone in on colours and perspectives, but so much of how we remember things is wrapped up in how we feel about them.

That’s why Sam Evans fine art depictions of legendary moments from WWF and gangster films make sense. These scenes are so burnt into our minds that an expressionist painting – painted by an extremely talented artist – can instantly draw us back to the emotion we felt as we absorbed them for the first time.

The irony about Sam’s work is that, despite harkening back to a pre-smartphone world, he’s built a massive Instagram following. Sopranos fans and Hulkamaniacs alike are lapping up his paintings and the chance to ogle elevated versions of their favourite shows – a classy homage to the binge.

Does a painting of Vito Spatafore getting caught blowing a guy belong in the rumpus room or the grand dining room? That’s for the beholder to decide. What we can tell you is that Vito’s Indiscretion, as painted by Sam Evans deserves its moment.

Check out our interview with him below and be sure to check out his joint Can It All Be So Simple exhibition with Squat Dead Face at Good Space in Sydney on August 23rd and 24th. Oh, and follow him on IG here to see more of his work.

Why you are fascinated with painting these nostalgic scenes? What do you get out of it?

It takes me back to a simpler time. The days when all you had to worry about was skateboarding around the neighbourhood. I was a kid in the 80s and a teenager in the 90s. It was a special time.

Have you always painted pop culture scenes?

No. I’ve always painted, but only started this sort of work in 2018. It started with the 80’s wrestling stuff. I saw some photos in an old WWF magazine of “Macho Man” Randy Savage Vs Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and I thought it would make a nice painting. I really liked the result and haven’t looked back since.

We live in a time of sequels, prequels, samples and IP. Why do you think nostalgic media is so prevalent in the culture?

I think humans peaked as a species in the 60’s around the time of Woodstock. Since then it’s just been a slow decline musically and artistically. The culture and the art just had more soul back then and I think people like to look back on that. It feels like everything is so accessible nowadays. I used to love buying a CD and listening to the whole thing and reading the cover and looking at the art. Now it’s just released on Spotify and you can’t even zoom in on the cover art. And cinema seems to be dying with everything homogenised through Netflix.

What artists, contemporary or otherwise, inspire your work?

Firstly the artists who make all the stuff that I paint. Quentin Tarantino, David Chase, Martin Scorsese and all the team from the WWF era of wrestling.

There are a bunch of great artists out there at the moment who inspire me: Squatdeadface, Kipdafog, Mike Wehner, Tony Caves, Elsantoswrasslin, Hullkogan, Jensenartwork, Steve Casino, Jedijackyeti, Christhings, Hal Haney, Ben Tankard, Debra Sutton, Thiscreativelassie, Bartlett studio, Stikki Peaches, lilithophelia666, whatnessapaints, itsbillmain, ghoulorama, moeljelly, nolanium, Marjdotjpg, yvesdecamps, extracooler, abrslr_art.

There really is a lot of people doing some great work. These are all of their IG names if anyone wants to follow any of these legends.

Is art your full-time gig?

Yes it is now. I had my first taste of being a full time artist during the covid insanity. Western Australia was quite an experience. I went back to my construction job after covid and realised it wasn’t for me anymore. I took a leap of faith in my work and quit my job. I am blessed that I get to do what I love every day. My output of art since 2018 has been very consistent. So working my ass off has helped.

Al and art are more and more connected these days – do you see Al as a threat to what you do? Does it interest you at all?

I don’t see AI art as a threat at this stage. I think the people who buy original paintings and prints will continue to do so. They know it comes from a human and takes spirit and soul and effort and a lot of people want to support that. Maybe if they teach AI how to smoke weed it might make better art. But everything I’ve seen so far just looks empty and creepy.

I think as it does get better a lot of artists will use it as a tool when visualising ideas. I hate the idea of it scraping Instagram and ripping peoples styles off. But there’s enough humans doing that as well. I think when it does become very advanced it will impact a lot of the digital illustrators and designers as companies will go for what’s cheapest. You can already see it in the background of movies. Hopefully people will realise it has no soul and boycott everything about it and we can just get the robots to do the shitty jobs instead.

What was the ultimate WWF wrestling match in your opinion?

Wrestlemania 6 Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior. I know it wasn’t a technical masterpiece but just for pure excitement and build up it was incredible. Title for title, good guy vs good guy, the ultimate challenge. They were both at their peak of popularity but with them both being faces it was just a dream match. But then it happened and they both put on a show for the ages.

What are you thoughts on the ‘Attitude Era’?

I had kind of checked out of wrestling at that point. I was a teenager and was way too busy being cool and knowing everything. So I missed a lot of it. But YouTube is an amazing thing and I’ve been able to have a whole era of quality wrestling from the Monday night wars era to enjoy in my old age

What happened after it faded to black in the final episode of ‘The Sopranos’?

I think Tony got whacked but not in the restaurant with his family like that. I think that was just his last memory that he cared for.

“If you’re lucky you’ll remember the little moments.” – Tony Soprano

Who is your favourite character from the show and why?

Paulie Walnuts. Best lines. Funny as shit. Authentic gangster.

What current shows/movies are you watching now?

I’m actually rewatching The Sopranos for only the second time at the moment. I enjoyed Better Call Saul. I’ve been told I should check out The Wire and do some art related to it. So I will eventually. I find it hard to just sit and binge tv. I feel I should be making art instead.

You’ve got an exhibition coming up in Sydney – are you unveiling any new works or series there?

Yes myself and Sydney based artist Squatdeadface (Danial Kelly) will be showing an abundance of seen and unseen works. Our subject matter is very similar. The show is based on nostalgia. Hope to see you there.

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