Sean Scully is a fervent Miles Davis fan. Before being seduced into the life of a painter by a visit to the Tate—in particular, by encounters with works on view there by Mark Rothko and Bridget Riley—Scully owned a blues club and played in a band in 1960s London. By the 1970s, art making filled his days, but music, especially jazz, remained a strong influence. Scully’s show of new paintings at Timothy Taylor Gallery invokes these origins through the artist’s cool, impassioned approach to folding rhythm and vibration into abstract paintings.
“Kind of Red,” the show’s title, is a playful turn on Davis’ classic record Kind of Blue, which dropped in 1959. Scully listened to the album nonstop while making the monumental five-panel installation that is the centerpiece of the exhibition. Inspired by Davis’ expansive, experimental approach to jazz, Scully set to drawing out the visual and tonal potential of his signature color block abstractions.
Scully’s previous works, like his seminal “Wall of Light” series, explore the capability of abstract painting to communicate the powerful vagaries of light, color, and texture. In these allover compositions, Scully builds his canvases with “bricks” of color that allude to the permanence of both architectural and art historical masterpieces, such as Stonehenge or paintings by Rothko. There is also a foil to this permanence in the form of the ephemeral—manifest in the separations between the bricks, which suggest a mysterious, glowing space beyond.
In “Kind of Red,” Scully expands on the sense of movement and fugacity in his paintings. Here, orbs of color float in the space of the backdrop and individual bricks bump up against each other, ultimately seeming to stick together magnetically. Alternating skeins of blacks, greys, and reds inject a sense of pulsating energy that accrues across five juxtaposed paintings. Working on aluminum instead of canvas—an unconventional substrate that acts like tine—Scully once again invokes music, as the sounds of his brush against metal infuse the work with a kinetic, painterly cadence.
“Sean Scully: Kind of Red” is on view at Timothy Taylor Gallery, London, June 11–July 26th, 2014.