Sean Scully

The Personal Artistic Philosophy of Sean Scully

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Sean Scully on his philosophical mission statement.

Sean Scully

Sean Scully is a leading representative of a new generation of abstract painters that emerged towards the end of the twentieth century.  His work is strongly acclaimed, and has been exhibited in museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Albright-Knox Gallery, Galleria de Arte Moderna, Bologna and Gallerie Jeu de Paume, Pais.

Sean Scully has moved steadily over the past three decades to his current position in the highest rank of painters working in the abstract tradition.  Scully began painting in the late 1960s and early 1970s amid the dominance of Op Art in Britain. He then moved to America, where, after five years of struggle, he found his painterly voice in the stripe. Scully has relentlessly pursued the possibilities offered by his exploration of colored stripes, always remaining true to his assertion that "the stripe is a signifier of modernism."


Question: What are you trying to accomplish as an artist?

Scully:    Well, it means two things I’m saying two things there.  I hold to the madness idea of evolution.  I believe in human evolution and I believe in things getting better and our slow, dreadfully slow ascent out of the mud which we came and now all our struggle to locate and endure with a better angels and that’s a romantic, idealistic philosophy but that what stands behind my work.  And what I’ve tried to do in my work is to use a language that everybody can understand.  It’s meant to be universal.  I understand of course it has a different patina and value in different cultures will register in a way that is distinct.  However,, there should be something in it that everybody can recognize therefore in a sense, in order to do that, in order to make the most common vocabulary you need to simplify and that leads you into a situation where you could be dealing with kind of banality because you are looking for the common denominator.  So, that’s the drawing part of my work.  That’s what stands behind and it’s relates to architecture doors, windows, walls, repetitive building techniques and so on that populate the whole world.  And then what I’ve done with that is I tried to connect it to the personal, so that’s what I mean of surfaces, personal - the treatment is personal.  They are all made by me, by hand so they show human labor and human love of labor.  Human dedication and I’ve tried to make it reflective of the evolution of one person, was making it as broad in terms of its matrix.  It’s linguistic matrix as possible.