Sean Scully - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Cheim & Read, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    'Abstraction is the art of our age; it’s a breaking down of certain structures, an opening up. It allows you to think without making obsessively specific references, so that the viewer is free to identify with the work. Abstract art has the possibility of being incredibly generous, really out there for everybody. It’s a non-denominational religious art. I think it’s the spiritual art of our time.' Sean Scully

    Harmoniously balancing painterly panels of cool, ocean and intense blues, coalescing with deep grey and earthy maroon, Sean Scully’s Raval, 2013, creates interlinked layers of colour that exude light, movement and energy whilst simultaneously creating a consuming depth. The initial appearance of large blocks of colour on closer inspection give way to a multifaceted surface of numerous layers of paint, each comprised of a multitude of diverse individual brush marks which are imbued with an innate spirituality. 'Paint strokes do a number of things, but they do not simply describe the form in my work: they affirm the human spirit, the involvement of the human spirit' (Sean Scully, quoted in Resistance and Persistence: Selected Writings, London, 2006, p. 25). Scully’s current solo show Sean Scully: Human impressively dominates the commanding religious space at the Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore at the Venice Biennale.

    Constructed in what Scully referred to as ‘bricks’, not quite touching, they allow glimmers of the pigment beneath to be revealed, resembling building blocks. Scully’s architectural attitude to form is part of an art-historical narrative having captivated many of his predecessors, from Josef Albers to Ad Reinhardt, Donald Judd and Piet Mondrian. ‘Scully injected Piet Mondrian's strict grid like architecture into Rothko, animating his quiet mediations and giving early body and weight to his vaporous clouds of color' (Stephen Bennett Phillips, 'Becoming Sean Scully', Wall of Light, exh. cat., Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 19). Scully’s construction and understanding of numerous layers of colour consequently fits into the historical analyses on the discernment of space, hue, and their affiliation to the human involvement.

    The Abstract Expressionists, in particular Mark Rothko, were of huge influence to Scully. Having first encountered Rothko’s work in his early twenties at an exhibition of the artist’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Scully was inspired by Rothko’s atmospheric use of layered colour and the revealing of the layered elements, similarly fixating on the relationship between colour and the depths and moods that can be discovered by considered contrasts and the interchange of hues. Scully’s structural and geometrical understanding is combined with his knowledge, like Rothko, that his fine colour combinations are emotionally loaded, powerfully resonating with the viewer and illustrating an innate spirituality: There is a deeper spiritual meaning to the seemingly formulaic arrangement. 'My paintings talk of relationships, how bodies come together. How they touch. How they separate. How they live together, in harmony and disharmony ... Its edge defines its relationship to its neighbour and how it exists in context. My paintings want to tell stories that are an abstracted equivalent of how the world of human relationships is made and unmade. How it is possible to evolve as a human being in this' (Sean Scully, quoted in Walter Smerling, ‘Constantinople or the Sensual Concealed,’ in The Imagery of Sean Scully, exh. cat., MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst, Duisburg, 2009, p. 8).

    Scully's Raval capitalizes upon colour, medium, and shape to create an artwork that comes to life both kinesthetically and emotionally, balancing a meticulously geometric format with the irrepressible physicality and poetic theme found in the painted surface.



signed, titled and dated 'RAVAL Sean Scully 2013' on the reverse
oil on aluminium
89.1 x 101.1 cm (35 1/8 x 39 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2013.

£200,000 - 300,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £325,000

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Director, Specialist
Head of Day Sale
+44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 3 October 2019