Sean Scully, Figure/Abstract
Ludwig Museum, Koblenz
31 August - 16 November 2014
Almost no other artists have been so strongly influenced by their encounters with contemporary abstract paintings as Sean Scully (b.1945 in Dublin). For the first time, a museum presentation will be establishing a dialogue between the figurative works of his early oeuvre and his abstract works.
As a student at Croydon College, Newcastle and Harvard University, his work was heavily influenced by Expressionist paintings, particularly those of the Brücke artists E.L. Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. He absorbed both the wealth of Modern European painting – from van Gogh to Klee, from Delacroix to Matisse – and oriental influences, which he observed in Morocco in the early 1970s. His studies in the US led to his encounter with the Color Field painters, such as Ad Reinhardt and Agnes Martin, but also Frank Stella. Setting out from figuration and colour, he quickly steered his work in the direction of abstraction and was able to almost seamlessly achieve this highly logical and radical transformation.
The departure for abstraction was radical, analytical and also extremely sensual. Since that time he has modeled and worked exclusively in colour, which he grasps no less analytically than emotionally in its semantic interaction. The stripes are sometimes narrow and sometimes wide, are sometimes applied flatly and at other times with a clearly perceptible brushstroke – his abstract compositions become concentrated into optical border hoppers or expand our gaze to encompass almost landscape-like associations. In this sense his works combine European and American painting in equal parts and are anchored in the still heatedly disputed dichotomy between figuration and abstraction.
The exhibition is being developed for the Ludwig Museum in Koblenz and will tour to Kunsthalle Rostock (1 March - 26 April 2015) and then Crawford Art Gallery, Cork (26 June - 12 September 2015).