Sean Scully, Aeternum
Forum Paracelsus, St Moritz
February 13 – 10 March 2020
Sean Scully’s work has taken inspiration from many cherished, varied elements of European culture (ranging from the harmonic ideals of ancient Greek to stone walls in his native Ireland) but he has also successfully responded to – and built on – the legacy of abstraction in the United States. Aeternum makes its focus paintings and pastels that show Scully engaging with classicism through the lens of abstraction. It will be the artist’s first solo show in Switzerland in nearly a decade – following his retrospective ‘Grey Wolf’ at Kunstmuseum Bern in 2012.
Oscar Humphries – the curator of Aeternum says “There is no better setting for Sean Scully’s more classical work than the Forum Paracelsus – given its ancient history. Scully is best known for the change he made to abstraction in the late 20th century, his role in the renaissance of painting as a medium, and his influence of other artists. But Scully is also intensely interested in the ancient world – and the work included in this exhibition whist wholly contemporary – is rooted in the symmetry and order of Greek and Roman architecture. Architecture is central to the artist’s practice and this begins with the ancients. I love the Forum Paracelsus – formerly the baths of the region– the building is neo-classical and dates from the 18th century but its history dates back to 1400BC. We wanted to make a show that examines his fascination with the eternal – hence the title of the show. I was very happy when the city of St. Moritz invited Sean to make a show in this historic and important venue in a town that is increasingly an important art centre.”
The core of this exhibition are Sean Scully’s monumental Doric paintings, a series of works he has produced since 2008. The title references one of the three orders of ancient Greek architecture, the least ornate Doric order, and the paintings were conceived as a celebration of the contribution of classic Greek culture to humanity. Of the Doric order on which many of the works in this show use as a template the artist says: “The spaces between the columns are space for thought, for light, for questioning and growth. When Oscar and I visited the space in St. Moritz, I knew that I wanted to show these works here. I love nature and live and work surrounded by it. This exhibition will be surrounded by nature also. Architecture, art, and the human spirit versus the power of nature in the mountains and in the lake which you see and feel when you are there”
Scully’s Doric paintings combine austerity with luminosity and solidity with movement and rhythm. Variations of black, grey, and off-whites are arranged in broad, horizontal and vertical bands, use an abstract visual language which is unique to the artist. As well as the Doric paintings pastels and smaller paintings on metal have been chosen for the Forum – creating a balance between the architecture of the works shown and the architecture and tone of the space they will inhabit.
Exhibition curated by Oscar Humphries.
Exhibition supported by Marco Voena and Engadin St. Moritz Tourismus AG.