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Spanning over 50 years this exhibition brings together 100 works; oil paintings, watercolours, drawings, sculpture, writings and prints from 1968 to now focusing on the role of the square in Sean Scully's groundbreaking career.

Wall Plena
2021
Oil on linen
101.6 x 101.6 cm / 40 x 40 in

Wall Plena
2021
Oil on linen
101.6 x 101.6 cm / 40 x 40 in

Brennus
1979
oil on canvas
213.4 x 213.4 cm / 84 x 84 in  
Collection: Irish Museum of Modern Art

Brennus
1979
oil on canvas
213.4 x 213.4 cm / 84 x 84 in  
Collection: Irish Museum of Modern Art

From his paintings in the early 1970s through to his monumental ‘Crann Soilse’ (‘Wall of Light’, 2003) wall of alternate white Portuguese limestone and black Chinese basalt stone cubes, commissioned by the University in Limerick, Scully’s art relates and processes the tensions and links between built structures and the oblong forms he creates with his paintbrush. Throughout, the square has been a stabilising, structuring component, a containing format within which the artist has found expansive latitude to experiment and develop.

Sean Rainbird,
Director, National Gallery of Ireland

Wall Yellow Tract
2021
oil on linen
160 x 160 x 7.5 cm / 63 x 63 x 3 in

Wall Yellow Tract
2021
oil on linen
160 x 160 x 7.5 cm / 63 x 63 x 3 in

In the art of Sean Scully — widely acknowledged as among the most important proponents of abstraction during the last half-century — particular attention has often been paid to the potential significance both literal and metaphorical of the square . 

This exhibition traces that history in the evolution of Scully's unique contribution to abstract painting. A career that infused the limited vocabulary of minimalist with the raw spirit and muddy emotion of the lived experience.

Untitled 
1968
Gouache on paper
30.5 x 22.9 cm / 12 x 9 in 

Untitled 
1968
Gouache on paper
30.5 x 22.9 cm / 12 x 9 in 

From the earliest work in the exhibition, a Gouache on paper from 1968, described by the writer Kelly Grovier as ‘an abacus of thirty shuddering circles squeezed within as many squares' to his more recent 'Dark Window' series where dense black squares are squeezed within his landlines, (made during lockdown and unveiled in the New York Times in April 2020) Scully has returned time and time again to test, tease and push against geometry. 

Black Square Colored Land
2021
Oil on aluminum
34.6 x 30.5 cm / 13.6 x 12 in

Black Square Colored Land
2021
Oil on aluminum
34.6 x 30.5 cm / 13.6 x 12 in

the iPhone prints

SQUARE also includes a new series of prints made with the artists finger on an iPhone screen. Shown for the first time, these playful and expressive drawings are teeming with life and energy, expressing the haptic and creative potential of the screen. A celebration of tactility in an age of immateriality, they carve out a space for drawing and mark-making in the age of the smartphone while reconsidering the legacy of minimalism and abstraction in the 21st Century.

Selected Works

Selected Works Thumbnails
Inset 2021 archival pigment print on paper

Inset
2021
archival pigment print on paper
edition of 40 + 7 AP
71.1 x 55.9 cm / 28 x 22 in   
81.5 x 66.2 x 4 cm  / 32.1 x 26.1 x 1.6 in (framed)

Inquire
Ire 2021 archival pigment print on paper

Ire
2021
archival pigment print on paper
edition of 40 + 7 AP
71.1 x 55.9 cm / 28 x 22 in   
81.5 x 66.2 x 4 cm  / 32.1 x 26.1 x 1.6 in (framed)

Inquire
Cage Green 2021

Cage Green
2021
archival pigment print on paper
edition of 40 + 7 AP
71.1 x 55.9 cm / 28 x 22 in   
81.5 x 66.2 x 4 cm  / 32.1 x 26.1 x 1.6 in (framed)

Inquire
Dark Square 2021

Dark Square
2021
archival pigment print on paper
edition of 40 + 7 AP
71.1 x 55.9 cm / 28 x 22 in   
81.5 x 66.2 x 4 cm  / 32.1 x 26.1 x 1.6 in (framed)

Inquire
Window 2021 archival pigment print on paper

Window
2021
archival pigment print on paper
edition of 40 + 7 AP
71.1 x 55.9 cm / 28 x 22 in   
81.5 x 66.2 x 4 cm  / 32.1 x 26.1 x 1.6 in (framed)

Inquire
Inset 2021 archival pigment print on paper

Inset
2021
archival pigment print on paper
edition of 40 + 7 AP
71.1 x 55.9 cm / 28 x 22 in   
81.5 x 66.2 x 4 cm  / 32.1 x 26.1 x 1.6 in (framed)

Ire 2021 archival pigment print on paper

Ire
2021
archival pigment print on paper
edition of 40 + 7 AP
71.1 x 55.9 cm / 28 x 22 in   
81.5 x 66.2 x 4 cm  / 32.1 x 26.1 x 1.6 in (framed)

Cage Green 2021

Cage Green
2021
archival pigment print on paper
edition of 40 + 7 AP
71.1 x 55.9 cm / 28 x 22 in   
81.5 x 66.2 x 4 cm  / 32.1 x 26.1 x 1.6 in (framed)

Dark Square 2021

Dark Square
2021
archival pigment print on paper
edition of 40 + 7 AP
71.1 x 55.9 cm / 28 x 22 in   
81.5 x 66.2 x 4 cm  / 32.1 x 26.1 x 1.6 in (framed)

Window 2021 archival pigment print on paper

Window
2021
archival pigment print on paper
edition of 40 + 7 AP
71.1 x 55.9 cm / 28 x 22 in   
81.5 x 66.2 x 4 cm  / 32.1 x 26.1 x 1.6 in (framed)

Slideshow

Slideshow Thumbnails
Squares #4  1974

Squares #4 
1974
acrylic on paper
68.6 x 68.6 cm / 27 x 27 in  

Untitled 1974 acrylic on canvas

Untitled
1974
acrylic on canvas
121.9 x 121.9 cm / 48 x 48 in  

Writing Drawing 7

Writing Drawing 7
1975
ink on paper
27.9 X 43.2 cm / 11 X 17 in   

Diptych  1978 gouache on paper

Diptych 
1978
gouache on paper
77.5 x 57.2 cm / 30.5 x 22.5 in paper size 

#21 1980 gouache on paper

#21
1980
gouache on paper
76.1 x 70 cm / 30 x 27.6 in   

Wrapped Grid Orange 

Wrapped Grid Orange 
2019
aluminium and felt
204 x 175 cm / 80.3 x 68.9 in   

Wall Pink Blue 

Wall Pink Blue 
2020
Oil on Linen
160 x 160 cm / 63 x 63 in 

Robe Diptych 5.29.20 

Robe Diptych 5.29.20 
2020
watercolour and pencil on paper
38.1 x 57.5 cm / 15 x 22.6 in   

Black Window Grey Land

Black Window Grey Land 
2020
oil on aluminium
215.9 x 190.5 cm / 85 x 75 in   

Black Square 1.26.20 

Black Square 1.26.20 
2020
watercolour and pencil on paper
76.5 x 57.8 cm / 30.1 x 22.8 in   

Fleece Windows  2021

Fleece Windows 
2021
ink and watercolour on paper
53 x 38 cm / 20.9 x 15 in   

Cage Red  2021

Cage Red 
2021
Oil and oil pastel on aluminum
81.3 x 71.1 cm / 32 x 28 in  

Squares #4  1974

Squares #4 
1974
acrylic on paper
68.6 x 68.6 cm / 27 x 27 in  

Untitled 1974 acrylic on canvas

Untitled
1974
acrylic on canvas
121.9 x 121.9 cm / 48 x 48 in  

Writing Drawing 7

Writing Drawing 7
1975
ink on paper
27.9 X 43.2 cm / 11 X 17 in   

Diptych  1978 gouache on paper

Diptych 
1978
gouache on paper
77.5 x 57.2 cm / 30.5 x 22.5 in paper size 

#21 1980 gouache on paper

#21
1980
gouache on paper
76.1 x 70 cm / 30 x 27.6 in   

Wrapped Grid Orange 

Wrapped Grid Orange 
2019
aluminium and felt
204 x 175 cm / 80.3 x 68.9 in   

Wall Pink Blue 

Wall Pink Blue 
2020
Oil on Linen
160 x 160 cm / 63 x 63 in 

Robe Diptych 5.29.20 

Robe Diptych 5.29.20 
2020
watercolour and pencil on paper
38.1 x 57.5 cm / 15 x 22.6 in   

Black Window Grey Land

Black Window Grey Land 
2020
oil on aluminium
215.9 x 190.5 cm / 85 x 75 in   

Black Square 1.26.20 

Black Square 1.26.20 
2020
watercolour and pencil on paper
76.5 x 57.8 cm / 30.1 x 22.8 in   

Fleece Windows  2021

Fleece Windows 
2021
ink and watercolour on paper
53 x 38 cm / 20.9 x 15 in   

Cage Red  2021

Cage Red 
2021
Oil and oil pastel on aluminum
81.3 x 71.1 cm / 32 x 28 in  

Black Window Grey Land
2020
oil on aluminium
215.9 x 190.5 cm / 85 x 75 in 

Black Window Grey Land
2020
oil on aluminium
215.9 x 190.5 cm / 85 x 75 in 

Scully’s recurrent concentration on the square is grounded, partly, in historical awareness. Squares of many kinds — small components or organising frameworks, zones of darkness and painterly density, areas of organised colour and expressively nuanced illumination — are presented in styles sensitive to the manifold experiments with fundamental geometric form that defined earlier generations of art. Yet the square is also, for Scully, a figure of empirical, worldly, in-the-moment value: a shape that speaks, not only, of the perfections and complications of two-dimensional abstract form, but also of actual conditions of seeing and being in the world. The varied specificity of Scully’s squares — as with other recognizable configurations of rectangular layering and patterning in his art — often emerges from considered responses to places, atmospheres and experiences.

Geometry, again and again, is brought into correspondence with geography. As such, squares can be key compositional features and, at the same time, diversely implied ‘windows’. Squares are structures for seeing that might, from painting to painting, from drawing to drawing, offer generous variations of worldly light or — depending on the agitations of the times — propose more obscured, darkened and troubled views. Scully's square-centred artworks have a grounding but ambiguous presence comparable to what Seamus Heaney once called the "there-you-are and where-are-you of poetry." 

Declan Long
Course Director: MA Art in the Contemporary World
National College of Art and Design, Dublin

 

 

Installation Views

Installation Views Thumbnails
Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully SQUARE

Sean Scully
SQUARE
17 May – 25 June 2022

Sean Scully in conversation with Kelly Grovier
The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin
September 2021
 

Sean Scully in conversation with Kelly Grovier

Sean Scully in conversation with Kelly Grovier
The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin
September 2021
 

Sean
2022
Oil on linen
76.2 x 71.1 cm / 30 x 28 in

Sean
2022
Oil on linen
76.2 x 71.1 cm / 30 x 28 in

Sean Scully
b.1945, Dublin, Ireland.

 

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 abstract painting. Scully’s commanding, internationally recognizable oeuvre – 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 and of acute concentration and care: his work involves an ongoing negotiation between the monumental and the intimate.

'The Shape of Ideas' a career retrospective is currently on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2022) following its run at Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth (2021). 

Recent exhibitions include: Song of Colours, Langen Foundation, Germany (2022); Passenger, Benaki Museum, Athens (2021); Passenger, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest, Hungary (2021); Insideoutside, Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden, Wuppertal, Germany (2020-21); Opulent Ascension, LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster, Germany, (2020); Aeternum, Eleuthera, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Málaga, Spain,(2019/2020); Long Night, Villa e Collezione Panza, Varese, Italy,(2019 / 2020); Landline, The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut (2019); Eleuthera, Albertina, Vienna, (2019); Sea Star, National Gallery, London, (2019); Vita Duplex, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, (2018); Landlines and other recent works, De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg (2018); Sean Scully: 1970, Walker Art, Liverpool Museum, (2018); Inside Outside, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, (2018).

Scully's work is represented in the collections of The Guggenheim Museum, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington;  Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; National Gallery of Australia; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K20/K21, Düsseldorf Tate Gallery, London; Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin and National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, amongst others.