Sean Scully - Diagonal Series

Tanya Baxter Contemporary
May 16, 2019 1:26PM

Sean Scully - Diagonal Series no. 3, 1973, mixed media and masking tape on paper, signed, titled and dated, 56 x 79 cm

Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1945, Sean Scully has gained international prominence as one of the most admired contemporary abstract painters working today. Fusing the traditions of European painting with the distinct character of American abstraction, Scully's great achievement is the reinvigoration of abstract painting with the metaphorical, the philosophical and the sublime, combined with the earthy tangibility of paint.

In the 1980s, Scully moved away from his precisely gridded works of the 1970s to create a uniquely sculptural form of painting, consisting of monumental, interconnected three-dimensional panels worked in strong earthy colours with hand-drawn lines and stripes. Subtly figurative despite their resolute astraction, the 80s works powerfully suggest fragility and fallibility.

in situ

New York City has been one of Scully's homes since 1975 when he left London. His move towards an abstract style motivated this move in the first place. Scully found early success in London as a figurative painter, but he embraced abstraction, specifically stripes, while on a trip to Morocco. "It was endless potential in the rhythm and structures of the visual world there that moved me. There are stripes everywhere: in ceramic on the walls and floors, in the carpets, in the materials people wear and in the dyed wool that is hung over bars to dry in deep resonant colours. Everything looks like art" (Belcove, FT 2012).

He has since devoted his career to abstraction, painting stripes or "bricks" in a boggling variety of horizontal and vertical formations and colours. To Scully, London was a city of representational painters in the vein of Bacon and Freud. To be an abstract artist meant becoming a New Yorker. "When I converted from figuration to abstraction, I understood that it meant converting from the particular to the universal. London, being deeply iconoclastic, was a culture of the particular and no longer a fit" (Belcove, FT 2012).

As he was leaving London he made a series that are "incredibly condensed and compressed", rigidly employing the modernish grid as if they were bound and strapped down by tape, which he often used in the drawings, and feature prominently in Diagonal Series 1 and 3.

Sean Scully - Diagonals 1, 1973, signed and dated 'Sean Scully 73' (lower right), inscribed 'Diagonals 1' (lower left), pencil, acrylic and tape on paper, 66.1 x 100.9 cm

In more recent years the artist has returned to sculpture, workign with Corten and stainless steel to produce powerful structures that both assert and subvert their materiality. Scully's work is held in numerous public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, NYC; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC; The National Gallery of Art; The Corcoran Gallery of Art; the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth, Texas; Tate, London; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf; Albertina, Vienna; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Instituto Valencia d'Arte Modern, Valencia; Guangzhou Museum of Art, China and the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing.

Scully was also elected a Royal Academician in 2013 and has been shortlisted for the Turner prize twice, in 1989 and in 1993.

in situ

Tanya Baxter Contemporary