Sean Scully: The Nineties – Paintings, Pastels, Watercolors

EXHIBITION 14.06 – 16.09.01

Sean Scully was born in Ireland in 1945 and lives in New York, Barcelona and London. In the last three decades he has produced a characteristic body of painted works. The exhibition in Haus der Kunst, which includes close to 100 paintings, pastels, watercolors and photographs, focuses on Sean Scully's work from the 1990s.

Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko and Henri Matisse are the most important influences on the painting of Sean Scully. Since the 1970s the artist has restricted himself to the use of a severely reduced repertoire of forms – consisting of lines, stripes and blocks. Scully groups these in an alternating order, thereby creating monumental yet subtle pictorial arrangements, whose overall structures are often broken up by a spatially accentuated center panel, a so-called "inset". Thus, a suspension-filled relationship is created between repetition and contrast, balance and imbalance, symmetry and asymmetry. Color acts here - in the Minimalist tradition – as a carrier of expressive and sensual emotional qualities. Reduced to a minimal vocabulary, Scully's paintings – because they forego a connection to the concrete world and because they are witnesses to "human powers of expression" – allow the viewer the greatest possible freedom to project his own impressions onto them. 

The central motif of Scully's works is, aside from their structure and color, the style in which they are painted: The artist applies several, paste-like layers on top of each other, which results in irritating color compositions. The painting process as a temporal one remains visible, above all, in the edges of the stripes, where the contrasting colors meet. The application of paint is also evident in the brushwork, and the shift between fields and colors, and opacity and transparency, ensures a distinct rhythm in the images. The painter is particularly interested in the figure-ground relationship, which he explores – for instance in the recurring chessboard motif – in all its variations. 

There are both similarities and contradictions in Scully's canvases, which often consist of several pieces, as well as in the comparison of the individual works. All parts retain their independence and yet are part of a whole. This feature follows a rhythm, which, as in music, can be divided into introduction, development and recapitulation. The principle of sequence and that of composition, the subordination of the parts to the whole, are thereby kept in perfect balance. 

In cooperation with the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf

Sean Scully, Small Barcelona Painting 9/28/99, 1999, private collection, Frankfurt/Main © Sean Scully
Sean Scully, Small Barcelona Painting 9/28/99, 1999, private collection, Frankfurt/Main © Sean Scully
Sean Scully, Stone Light, 1992, The Bavarian State Painting Collections, Munich © Sean Scully
Sean Scully, Stone Light, 1992, The Bavarian State Painting Collections, Munich © Sean Scully
Sean Scully, Wall of Light Light, 1999, Art Collection Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf © Sean Scully
Sean Scully, Wall of Light Light, 1999, Art Collection Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf © Sean Scully
Sean Scully, Big Red Wall of Light, 2000, Gallery Bernd Klüser, Munich © Sean Scully
Sean Scully, Big Red Wall of Light, 2000, Gallery Bernd Klüser, Munich © Sean Scully

Stretch your view


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