Sean Scully - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 4, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The Taylor Gallery, London
    Private Collection
    Acquired from the above 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

    Sean Scully is a giant in the field of contemporary abstract painting, and this mature work, Grey Red, is exemplary of his extraordinary artistic vision. Weaving together the painterly ideals of art history with his own lived experiences, Scully fuses fiction and reality in a manner that affects the viewer with precipitate force.

    The entire surface of Grey Red is animated by its brushy texture which testifies to the incongruous foibles of human expression and endows the work with the assertive materiality of art history’s most prominent abstractionists. In Grey Red one finds the formal constraint of Barnett Newman, the chromatic roughness of Clyfford Still and the expressive painterly candour of Mark Rothko, but where these masters of the New York School sought deliverance through the supremacy of pure expression, Scully’s nuanced works find further salvation in their ontological similitude.

    One cannot ignore the ‘bricks-and-mortar’ familiarity Grey Red evokes; conjuring real world similarities that border on actual representation. “I use the discarded incidental details that lie around virtually unnoticed all over the city, reflecting its decay and arbitrariness’ explains Scully. ‘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). Indeed it is here that we uncover the foundations of Scully’s praxis; a marrying of real world objects with the subjective experience of looking that in some ways forms an allegory for painting itself. Transcending the purely formal qualities of order and imperfection that underpin his work, Scully manipulates his paint into pseudo-architectural compositions that contain all the noble imperfections of time-forgotten building. But these are not paintings of buildings, nor are they merely sensorial formal expressions either. As Scully explains “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). This illusive quality occupies a unique space between quotidian resemblance and a boundless primitive wonder that is yet to be surpassed in the field of contemporary abstract painting.

    Grey Red represents a masterful realisation of this ambition. Bricks of scorched terracotta and carbon black are stacked upon each other like a physical accumulation of our passions that have been burned onto the surface of the canvas. Side by side each fiery element interferes with the boundaries of its neighbour, producing a conspicuously organic sensibility that is ultimately countervailed by the rigidity of the works composition. We are left transfixed, hovering between certainties and unsure of where our comprehension really stands. As Bernd Klüser rightly notes, ‘[these] pictures are archaic and modern in equal measure: dispensing with symbolism, they evoke a sensual quality – the ANIMA SCULLYEN-SIS – which lies beyond normal experience. (Bernd Klüser, “Preface,” Sean Scully, 1993, exh. cat., Bernd Klüser, Munich, 1993, p.7)


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 £665,000

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Henry Highley
Head of Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 5 October 2016