patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Sean Scully, contemplation and time

with 4 comments

If I have a favourite artist it is Sean Scully. I remember once visiting Tate Modern with a friend, and in the time it took him to see everything in there I had viewed only the three Scullys that were on show. I was literally mesmerised by them. For me, the type of naturally occurring trance state, or reverie, that Franz Anton Mesmer (re)discovered is just the kind of experience provoked by many of Scully’s paintings. Whilst in some ways all aesthetic experience comes into the category of naturally occurring trance, (or if you prefer ‘flow’ state), the work by Sean Scully seems particularly to put me there.

In Issue Ten of Turps Banana, Scully, talking to Peter Dickinson about the bad reception abstract art gets in the UK, says that looking at abstract art “requires contemplation and time”

Sean Scully, Soft Ending, 1969, Acrylic on canvas (226.1 x 226.1 cm). Courtesy of the artist

You could imagine that a gallery might be a good place to find time for contemplation. .. unless it is such a gigantic space that walking past the art becomes the norm.

Sean Scully, Moon, being walked by at Centre Pompidou, Paris in 2008, my photo

Surely he is right about abstraction, it does require contemplation and time, and isn’t it also the case that it rewards the time and contemplation given to it. That is certainly my experience with Scully’s paintings, even the early, minimalist-leaning work.

In Turps Banana, the interview is supplemented by some excellent reproductions, all of early work. I have come to like the more recent Wall of Light series (like the one in my photograph above, taken at Centre Pompidou) so much that I had forgotten how powerful some of the early works are. Soft Ending 1969, for example, seems to have an opticality that is understated or resisted in the later work. The development of Scully’s oeuvre could be read as an increasing emphasis on the physicality and objecthood of painting. Of course that physicality includes the optical much as it could also be seen as a container for the spiritual. Scully talks a lot about the spiritual in art, but I don’t remember him defining what he means by it. What he says in Turps Banana about contemplation and time possibly hints at a way of viewing that approaches spirituality in the sense of meditation.

The new issue of Turps Banana also includes interviews with, or articles about painters such as, Tomma Abts, Christopher P. Wood, Che Lovelace, Gavin Lockheart, René Daniëls and Rose Wylie.

Check out this post at Abstraction Blog with some good photos of three new Scully paintings at his current show at Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, and a link to itunes where you can download Turps Banana.

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4 Responses

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  1. I like your description of works by Sean Scully, an artist whom I’ve never heard of …. you’ve inspired me to check out more of his stuff. It’s a shame that some people simply walk right on by abstract art and don’t take the time to look deeper.

    zookyshirts

    October 22, 2011 at 9:44 am

  2. […] Sean Scully says somewhere that if you have Mondrian, Matisse and Rothko, then you have his (Scully’s) work, and he also says that its impossible to get to the artist’s touch in Mondrian (that’s how I remember what he said anyway, what I have forgotten is where I read it). If that’s what he said he certainly has a point. […]

  3. I like Sean Scully a lot too. And Mondrian, Rothko, and Matisse too for that matter. I had not seen Soft Ending before… wow.

    …I’m sorry I have to stop reading your blog now. I really have to go paint!!

    zorgor

    November 3, 2011 at 2:35 am

    • Hi and thank you for your comments on this and other posts, glad you like them and hope it was a welcome distraction!

      Andy Parkinson

      November 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm


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