Lockdown 2020 and the art world has been brought to a grinding halt. Major exhibitions that have taken years to plan and organize have been postponed indefinitely or scrapped altogether. In the eerie quiet, one senses something big is brewing. Behind closed doors, a great reassessment of what is really important in life and Art is underway by creators whose vision and voice the world needs now more than ever. In the leafy hamlet of Tappan, New York the renowned abstract artist Sean Scully is busy in his studio making bold new work and looking back on the extraordinary story that is his life and career. – Kelly Grovier – Lockdown 2020
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Best known for the power and profundity of his outsized paintings and even larger personality, Scully, who turns 75 in June, has spent hours on the phone with the poet and cultural critic Kelly Grovier, reflecting on his extraordinary career — from a tough childhood spent on the wrong side of the tracks in south London to his current status as one of the most important painters working today — a ‘name’, as the legendary art critic Arthur Danto once insisted, that ‘belongs on the shortest of the shortlists of major painters of our time’. Over the course of these marathon conversations, Scully recalls with poignancy his rough-and-tumble growing up, his unlikely ambition to become an artist, the years of self-tuition and serial rejection from art school, his early flirtations with Minimalism and eventual determination to save abstract painting from the corner into which it had painted itself in the 1970s. A colourful storyteller with a knack for punchy aphorisms, Scully manages to bring all of life into his reminiscences. What follows is a series of short excerpts from the dialogue between Scully and Grovier, eloquent extracts that offer a thrilling vantage into one of the art world’s most formidable imaginations. The full transcript of the conversations between Scully and Grovier will be published by Thames & Hudson next year.
Sean Scully is one of the most significant artists of his generation. Known for his large-scale abstract paintings of vertical and horizontal stripes, abutting blocks of battered colour, and geometrical forms, Scully is also a master of printmaking, sculpture, watercolour, and pastel. He was born in Dublin in 1945 and raised in South London. After attending evening classes at the Central School of Art in London from 1962 to 1965, he enrolled at Croydon College of Art, London from 1965 until 1968. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Newcastle University in 1972 and was awarded the Frank Knox Fellowship to Harvard University in 1972, where he visited the United States for the first time. In 1975, he moved to New York full-time. He has twice been shortlisted for the Turner Prize. In 2013, Scully was named a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2013. The following year, he became the first Western artist to have a career-length retrospective in China. He has received honorary degrees from institutions such as the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston; the National University of Ireland, Dublin; Universitas Miguel Hernandez, Valencia; Burren College of Art, National University of Ireland; Newcastle University, UK, among others. A collection of Scully’s own writing, selected speeches, and interviews, Inner, edited by Grovier, was released in 2016.
Kelly Grovier is a poet and cultural critic. He is a columnist, and feature writer for BBC Culture, and his writings on Art have appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, The Independent, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The RA Magazine, and Wired. Educated at the University of California, Los Angeles, and at the University of Oxford, he is co-founder of the international scholarly journal European Romantic Review and author of 100 Works of Art That Will Define Our Age (2013) Art Since 1989 (2015), and A New Way of Seeing: The History of Art in 57 Works, all published by Thames & Hudson.
Top Photo: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2020 Video Content © Kelly Grovier via Artlyst 2020
Sean Scully On the Line: Art is Our Salvation – In Conversation With Kelly Grovier – Lockdown
Sean Scully On the Line: Can I Have Another Go? – In Conversation With Kelly Grovier – Lockdown 2020
Sean Scully On the Line with Kelly Grovier: A Thousand Ways to Fall Wrong
Sean Scully On The Line: Backs and Fronts
Sean Scully On The Line: Durango