Sean Scully - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Mary Boone Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Mary Boone Gallery, Sean Scully, 1 May–26 June 1993

  • Literature

    David Carrier, Sean Scully, London: Thames & Hudson, 2004, p. 151 (illustrated in colour)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “To paint abstractly is to paint pure feeling and to try and set the spirit free in a totally direct way.” SEAN SCULLY

    “I think of my work as really quite autobiographical. I allow my situation to affect the temperature of my work.” SEAN SCULLY

    The Irish born painter Sean Scully has come to international prominence as one of the most admired artists working in the abstract tradition today. Using the plainest of motifs – the stripe – Scully has developed and refined his compositions over the years. Homo Duplex from 1993 marks the period in the early 90s when Scully augmented his trademark stripes with a mode of compositional patterning more reminiscent of a checkerboard. Considering his own heritage, Scully has stated that Ireland has moved towards a more ‘chequered’ society: “I remember growing up in Ireland and everything being chequered, even the fields and the people.” This statement reflects how highly personal his paintings are. As he says: “Painting will always reflect your nature without mercy.”

    Decisively influenced by Rothko’s abstractions, Scully wanted to move to America after having studied in London. Arriving in New York, he became increasingly interested in abstract painting when abstraction was a beleaguered form; painting itself and the idea of ‘style’ were marginalized at the time. According to the highly influential critic Clement Greenberg, abstraction had an intrinsic value in its elimination of unnecessary references to the appearance of things. The individualist painter used this difficult situation for his advantage as Scully saw his work in a much larger scale questioning the status of painting over an extensive period.

    As David Carrier, the critic and friend of Sean Scully, points out, the title for Homo Duplex comes from how the Polish-British novelist Joseph Conrad referred to himself, as a Homo Duplex, or ‘double man’. Conrad’s novels, often with a nautical setting, depict trials of the human spirit in the face of an often cruel or indifferent universe. Visually, Homo Duplex offers a double composition, with a window set against the chequered background, as Scully has explained: “We’ve invented the window as a way of being in one situation and experiencing another situation, which is a fantastic human invention.” According to Scully, it is part of the artistic human brilliance that we are able to create a work architecturally that allows us to witness a dual experience.


Homo Duplex

oil on linen
254 x 228.6 cm (100 x 90 in)

£500,000 - 700,000 ‡♠

Sold for £601,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

10 October 2012