Sean Scully is one of the most significant abstract painters of our time. He has created works with a sublime range of tone and expression, from the romantic to the melancholic. A new exhibition at the Crawford Art Gallery, in Cork, Ireland explores revealing new perspectives on the artist’s work highlighting the interplay between figuration and abstraction in Scully’s oeuvre. The exhibition Figure / Abstract is Scully’s first ever museum show in Cork and coincides with his seventieth birthday which took place on June 30.
Figure / Abstract features works from 1964 to the present, most of which have never been exhibited before. Scully is best known for the epic ‘stripe’ paintings he has made since the early 1980s: few are aware that he explored figurative painting before turning to abstraction. The exhibition will feature examples of his earliest drawings and paintings, tracing his evolution as an artist through the 1960s and into the 1970s and beyond. The largest work featured is Horizontal Soul (2014), a monumental oil on canvas over eight metres in length.
Scully has achieved international acclaim as an abstract artist, yet Figure/Abstract is the first exhibition of his work to include his early figurative drawings and paintings. The earliest works date back to 1964, when Scully was nineteen. Anyone familiar with his monumental abstract paintings may be surprised to find that these early works are so modest in scale and feature such domestic subjects as a dog and a cat, as well as sketches of his brother Tony. Most of the works in Figure/Abstract have never been shown before.
This new exhibition demonstrates how Scully’s interest in figuration continued to develop alongside his early explorations in abstraction throughout the 1960s, before he began making the large abstract paintings that have occupied him since the early 1970s.
The exhibition also features works on canvas – including Untitled -Seated Figure (1967); Backcloth (1970) and Inset (1973)– which together demonstrate how Scully’s conversion to abstraction drove his development as one of the most original painters of our times. Scully is today best known for his epic ‘stripe’ paintings, and the exhibition features a recent work from this series, Horizontal Soul, 2014, which is more than eight metres in length.
To mark the occasion, and to celebrate Scully’s achievements as an Irish artist on the international stage, the Crawford Gallery have restored the sinead fada over the ‘a’ in the spelling of ‘Seán’ for the duration of Figure / Abstract‘s run in Cork. The exhibition is Curated by Marc O’Sullivan and Tina Darb.
A publication Sean Scully: Figure / Abstract with texts by Marc O’Sullivan and Dr Beate Reifenscheid, director, Ludwig Museum, Koblenz is also available.
SEAN SCULLY: FIGURE / ABSTRACT 27 June–12 September 2015 Crawford Art Gallery Cork Ireland