Sean Scully - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, March 7, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Timothy Taylor, London
    Private Collection
    Private Collection, London
    Phillips, London, 5 October 2016, lot 8
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    London, Royal Academy of Arts, The 244th Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition, 4 June - 12 August 2012, no. 847
    Windsor, The Verey Gallery, Sean Scully, 3 October 2012 - 28 February 2013

  • Catalogue Essay

    Reducing the plane to thick brushstrokes, arranged in tessellated brick red blocks, Sean Scully’s Grey Red is a minimal and poetic composition from his allegorical practice. Based on a memory of figuration, Scully’s work is imbued with energy, leaving realism behind. Stacked, textural tones of broad, almost carnal brushstrokes of solemn hues of terracotta red, grey and taupe are arranged in metaphysical geometric shapes. In the vein of artists before him like Piet Mondrian, Josef Albers, Donald Judd and Ellsworth Kelly, who committed themselves to geometry, Scully reduces the image to its abstract essence. Diverging from the linear purity found in those artists’ practices, the artist instead brings textured tones and coarse brushstrokes to the fore and instils the work with a new aesthetic concreteness.

    In the 1960s, Scully became concerned with Russian Suprematism. With his own political aspirations of world unification, the artist admired the rebellious and fresh approach of the movement that accompanied the Russian Revolution. When Kazimir Malevich painted his Black Square in 1915, he confirmed that visually abstract language was the best way to communicate the language of modernity. Translating this into his own work, Scully harnesses the imperfection of his exposed mark marking, building on the purely formal qualities of order and imperfection that underpin his practice. He replaced the figurative with the ideals of Suprematism, while utilising geometry as a form of connection to the world and, as he stated, ‘abstraction, with its direct appeal and universality, became [his] mission’ (Sean Scully, quoted in Sean Scully: Figure/Abstract, Ludwig Museum im Deutschherrenhaus, Koblenz, 2014, p. 7).

    Throughout Scully’s oeuvre, the artist moves from realism towards a system of minimalism as his concern with repetition and urban forms take centre stage. As colour became his key concern, Scully rejected composition and gesture in favour of process, as the present work Grey Red, 2012, exemplifies. Through his thickly applied brushstrokes, Scully adds a dimensionality to his pseudo-architectural composition, using his grid-like composition to recall a familiar image, connecting with the viewer on a nostalgic level. As he espoused, ‘These relationships that I see in the street doorways, in windows between buildings, and the traces of structures that were once full of life, I take for my work. I use these colours and forms and put them together in a way that perhaps reminds you of something, though you’re not sure what’ (Sean Scully quoted in, David Carrier, Sean Scully, London, 2004, p. 98).

    The present work thus reveals the foundations of Scully’s praxis as he combines real life structures with the poetic allegory of a subjective viewing experience. Commenting on his practice he notes: ‘it’s a question of making something true. Something that can reflect the dimensionality of the human spirit within the grid of our world’ (Sean Scully, quoted in David Carrier, Sean Scully, London, 2004, p. 146). As such, Scully has pioneered a linguistic revolution, capable of expressive the frenetic nature of contemporary reality. Building upon an established canon of geometrical abstraction, which began with Wassily Kandinsky’s gestural works and Malevich’s 1915 compositions, Scully’s oeuvre gradually reinstates poetry into the modern practice of painting. A contemporary and nuanced composition, Grey Red effectively builds upon the tradition of transcendental abstraction and geometry.


Grey Red

signed, titled and dated 'Sean Scully "Grey Red" '12' on the reverse
oil on aluminium
215.9 x 190.5 cm (85 x 75 in.)
Painted in 2012.

£600,000 - 800,000 ‡♠

Sold for £1,149,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 8 March 2018