Sean Scully (b. 1945)
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Sean Scully (b. 1945)


Sean Scully (b. 1945)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Sean Scully M.18.04' (lower left)
40 x 60 in. (101.6 x 152.4 cm.)
This work is recorded on the artist's website.
with Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, where purchased by the present owner in 2005.
Exhibition catalogue, Sean Scully: A Retrospective, Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró, 2007, pp. 155, 164, exhibition not numbered, illustrated.
Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró, Sean Scully: A Retrospective, July- August 2007, exhibition not numbered: this exhibition travelled to Saint-Étienne, Museé d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, February - March 2008; and Rome, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma, April - August 2008.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


Executed in his celebrated bricked motif inspired by manmade and natural environments, Sean Scully’s M.18.04 is a seductive exploration of earthy colour, and a masterful display of a large-scale pastel. The relationship between dark and light is a theme that is continuously investigated by Scully. His modern interpretation of the Abstract Expressionist movement successfully breaks down colour into arrangements that collectively ‘speak’ to the audience with tones normally conceived as opposites being brought together to provide an energetic and sensory experience.

The present work is no exception. Scully gives his pastel wall a genuine power over the viewer, where the combination of colour forces the viewer to be in a rhythmic state of flux. An impenetrable mass of blacks (leading the eye around the entirety of the paper) is woven together with surrounding cool charcoal greys. Sitting at odds with neighbouring layers of creams and blues that radiate light and vibrate full of energy, the viewer is constantly pulled and pushed around the surface with an unstoppable sense of weight. A single brick of deep terracotta sits at the lower edge of the paper, seemingly disturbing the regular pattern. However, as edges of M.18.04’s bricks softly fade into the next, a further obscured layer of this colour is revealed. When examined closely, one sees the terracotta extending across the entirety of the paper, underscoring the entire piece. Here, the colour that is initially seen to interrupt the regular arrangement in fact holds a wider significance, acting as a unified foundation for each brick for a further substance and depth of tone.

The introduction to the Abstract Expressionist movement by Mark Rothko early on in Scully’s career is considered the greatest influence in his decision to substitute figurative subjects with the abstract. Building upon Rothko’s exploration into human emotion, Scully explores how this is directly influenced by the interplay of colour, in the place of a more literal subject. Donald Kuspit highlights this influence, noting that ‘… the tendency to ‘minimalist’ simplicity, confirmed by the repetitive use of geometrical modules – the rectangular Lego blocks, as it were, with which Scully builds or constructs his painting – is at odds with the brooding ‘maximalist’ colours with which they are painted…’ (D. Kuspit, ‘Nuance and Intensity' in 'Sean Scully: Humanism in abstract design’, exhibition catalogue, Sean Scully: Body of Light, Australia, Canberra, 2004, p. 45).

At five feet wide, the present work’s significant scale undoubtedly explores the medium to its full potential. In a similar process to his glossy oil paintings, Scully’s transforms a surface by gradually building up layers. In pastel, however, this is markedly different. Reflecting on his process, Scully speaks of the very physical act of creating these pastel works: ‘Pastel is like putting make up on. There is a dust on the paper, which I rub in. I push it right into the paper with a piece of cloth or paper. Once it’s embedded into the surface, I fix it. And then I work it up, adding a layer, fixing it, adding another layer, fixing it again, and so on until the pastel starts to stand up a little from the paper. At a certain point, if you keep pushing, you start taking it off. So you have to give in’ (S. Scully, quoted in M. Poirier, Sean Scully, New York, 1990 p. 143). As such, shapes take on an ethereal quality. Animated both on the surface and in their multi-coloured depth, they present a fragility ready to break boundaries and dissolve away from what is ordinarily recognised as a solid and regular structure.

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