Sean Scully: Immersing And Mesmerising As Rothko’s Seagram murals

Sean Scully’s eighth solo show is currently on view at Timothy Taylor, the artist’s first in London since 2010.  The exhibition features a monumental five-panel installation on aluminium called Kind of Red (2013) and a select number of paintings from his recent Landlines series.

Dublin born in 1945, Sean Scully moved to London in 1949.  After studying at Croydon College of Art (1965-8) and Newcastle University (1968-72) he moved to New York in 1975, becoming a US citizen in 1983.   Twice nominated for the Turner Prize (1989 and 1993), he was elected a Royal Academician last year and in the last few years his inclusion in the RA’s Summer exhibition has always stood out.  In November 2014, the Shanghai Himalayas Art Museum will hold a major solo exhibition as part of the Shanghai Biennale, which will then travel to Beijing in 2015.

The Kind of Red series references the ground-breaking Miles Davis album Kind of Blue.  Jazz music has always played an inspirational part in Scully’s work and this album in particular is a visual analogy of Davis’ methods of the freedom of musicality.  In the exhibition’s accompanying catalogue the music and sports writer Richard Williams notes, “…just as Davis worked on the modes that were to replace conventional harmonic structures throughout most of Kind of Blue, so Scully devised the format and the ground…on which the Kind of Red paintings were to be made. The bare metal of the working surface remains exposed beyond the edges of the painted area; in two of the pieces, drips run down towards the bottom edge”.

The works still feature Scully’s tell tale grid and subdued colour palette but here the handling of the paint is looser, the shapes larger and more fluid, the lines less defined and in places drip down the canvasses.  The grey borders mimic the aluminium base and the still visible silver edges.  The paintings feel more sculptural as a result.  They are as mesmerising as Rothko’s Seagram murals in the Tate.

The paintings from the Landlines series are a new departure.  The strong horizontals are an abstracted view of a horizon line where the sea and sky blends into one.  Scully himself refers to “the sense of the elemental coming-together of land and sea, sky and land, of blocks coming together side by side” and being stacked on top of each other.  Having just seen the Mondrian exhibition at the Turner Contemporary, Margate it is clear that Scully’s abstraction here has a similar basis in Nature and colour theory as well as his love for the purity of shape, form and colour.   A definite Modern master and we can only hope that this country will soon have a major retrospective of his astounding oeuvre.

Words: Sara Faith Photo: P C Robinson Artlyst 2014

Watch Vine Video Of Exhibition

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