b. 1945, Dublin, Ireland
Sean Scully is generally considered to be one of the world’s leading abstract painters. Born in Dublin and raised in London, he now lives between New York and Germany. Appropriately, therefore, Scully’s art is thoroughly international in perspective, drawing on the diverse historical and cultural influences of places that, at different times, have been profoundly important to him. He has taken inspiration from many cherished, varied elements of European culture (ranging from the harmonic ideals of ancient Greek architecture to the vernacular design of stone walls in rural Ireland) but he has also successfully responded to – and built on – the legacy of abstraction in the United States. Scully’s commanding, internationally recognizable style of abstract art – based on repeating and steadily adapting arrangements of discretely nuanced blocks of colour – combines considerable painterly drama with great visual delicacy. It is an art of tremendous vigour: Scully is a forceful, physical artist, who creates intentionally monumental spaces. But it is also an art of acute concentration and care: his work involves an ongoing negotiation between the monumental and the intimate. Central to the success of his work, therefore, is a tension between strictly ordered, ‘objective’ zones of powerful colour and a looser, more subjective ‘edge’: each of the vital boundary lines of each defined, resonant stripe or square in a Scully painting has a distinct quality – and these variations create a plurality of painterly incident and accident within an apparently systematic arrangement. Scully’s work is noted for its impressively controlled abstract power, but at the heart of each rigorously composed work is a near-infinite number of expressive, emotional fluctuations. As he has said of abstraction more generally, this is a form of art that “was meant to embody deep emotion. I believe that’s its job, in the history of art.”
Scully's many worldwide solo exhibitions include the Met Museum, New York; Whitechapel Gallery, London; the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen, Dusseldorf, the Haus Der Kunst, Munich and IVAM, Valencia; The Phillips Collection, Washington DC; The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth; Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Scully is represented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the National Gallery, Washington, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, the Tate Gallery, London, the Louisiana, Denmark, the Reina Sofia, Madrid, and in many other private and public collections worldwide.
Recent solo exhibitions include Resistance and Persistence, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Arts (both 2016) and Hubei Museum of Art (10 January – 12 March 2017); Follow the Heart: The Art of Sean Scully 1964–2014, Shanghai Himalayas Art Museum, travelling to CAFA, Beijing (2014–15); Sean Scully – Figure/Abstract, Ludwig Museum, Koblenz, travelling to Kunsthalle Rostock, Germany and Crawford Art Gallery, Cork (2014–15); a major retrospective at the National Gallery of Ireland; Different Places, Château la Coste, Aix-en-Provence; Land Sea, part of the 56th Venice Biennale; Sean Scully – Malerei als Weltaneignung, Museum Liaunig, Neuhaus, Austria and Sean Scully 1974–2015, Pinacoteca do Estado, São Paolo, Brazil, all 2015. Scully celebrated his 70th birthday in June 2015 by unveiling a new permanent site-specific installation at the world-famous Romanesque chapel Santa Cecília de Montserrat, near Barcelona.