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Sean Scully, Bodies of Color

What shapes the radiance of Sean Scully’s work, both in his artistic position and in its illustrative reception, is the enlivening, almost animating of abstract painting by sensually conveyed, emotional and spiritual content. Since the 1980s, his paintings with orthogonally aligned forms have been characterised by a gestural signature. Blocks and strips of colour, applied in layers with a broad brush and oil paint wet-on-wet, reveal a painting process that is directed towards a specific harmony of colour: the kind of sound that makes the painting the pictorial equivalent of existential experience.

The emphasised flatness and frontality of Sean Scully’s paintings defies the traditional notion that a painting offers insights into a fictitious, illusionistic world. His works, on the contrary, have a physical presence in real space. Further promoted by the strategy of the “inset” or the picture-within-a-picture concept, Scully’s paintings take on an object-like character and develop references to the sculptural.

The exhibition’s sculpture Venice Stack, which rises on a square ground plan, illustrates that reciprocal relationships develop in the process. Related to the artist’s Landline paintings, horizontally stacked blocks of coloured Murano glass give rise to a body of light that, with painterly qualities, refers beyond what is directly seen to the transcendent.