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Information Sheet



SEAN SCULLY

Retrospective
22 July to 7 October 2012

Contents

Exhibition Facts ……………………………………………………………………………. 3


Press Text …………………………………………………………………………………… 4
Biography ……………………………………………………………………………………. 5
Room Texts .……………………………………………………………………………....... 6
Catalogue Foreword ………………….…………………………………………..…….….. 20
Press Images ……………………………………………………………………………….. 23

Exhibition Facts
Exhibition Title: SEAN SCULLY. Retrospective
Exhibition Period 22 July to 7 October 2012

Opening Saturday, 21 July 2012, 7 p.m.

Press Conference Friday, 20 July 2012, 11 a.m.

Venue LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz, huge exhibition hall

Curator Brigitte Reutner



Exhibits 37 paintings and 7 photographs
Cooperation The exhibition is the result of a cooperation with the Kunstmuseum Bern, where it was shown from 9th March to 24th of June, 2012.

Catalogue The exhibitions are accompanied by the catalogue SEAN SCULLY. Grey Wolf – Retrospective in german and english language. Ed. By Matthias Frehner and Stella Rollig. With essays by Stella Rollig, Matthias Frehner, Annick Haldemann and Brigitte Reutner, as well as numerous illustrations, 208 pages, Price € 28,-.

ISBN 978-3-86859-183-5


Support The exhibition is supported by Raiffeisen Landesbank Oberösterreich.

Room Texts are available in german and english.

Edited and texts by: Brigitte Reutner, Dunja Schneider


Kontakt Ernst-Koref-Promenade 1, 4020 Linz, Tel. +43(0)732/7070-3600; info@lentos.at, www.lentos.at

Öffnungszeiten Di–So 10–18 Uhr, Do 10–21 Uhr, Mo geschlossen (außer 9.4.)

Eintritt € 6,50, ermäßigt € 4,50

Pressekontakt Mag.a Nina Kirsch, Tel. +43(0)732/7070-3603, nina.kirsch@lentos.at

Available at the Press Conference:

Sean Scully, Artist

Stella Rollig, Director LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz

Brigitte Reutner, Curator


Helmut Schützeneder, Raiffeisen Landesbank Oberösterreich

Press Text
The exhibition Sean Scully is the first major solo exhibition of the artist in Austria in over ten years. With the presentation of about fifty paintings and photographs, LENTOS shows an extensive cross-section of the work by the Irish-born artist, who lives today in New York City, Barcelona and Bavaria.
In Scully’s early work, a grid system with multiply overlapping color stripes results in unusual optical effects. In the course of the 1980s the artist developed a form of

painting the emphasizes the brush strokes. Hard edges are undermined in the painting, contours merge with one another. Lighter stripes are effectively contrasted with darker ones. The resulting dynamic is enhanced with an additional tension through the carefully calculated coloration. Scully’s large format, sometimes multi-part paintings and his picture-in-a-picture combinations are among the icons of the

abstract painting of the 20th and 21st century.
At the same time, Scully’s work is more than a highly elegant artistic reflection masterfully making use of its means. It explores how painting can accompany a life, both that of the painter and of his audience: as a store of memories, as a poetic echo of what has been seen, as an expanded space of possibilities.


Biography

1945 Born in Dublin, Ireland.

1949 The family moves to London.

1965–68 Attends Croydon College in London;

1968–72 Studies painting at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; creates works of line and grid systems. The artist receives a scholarship to go to Cambridge, USA.

1973 Scully exhibits in the Rowan Gallery in London, begins teaching at Goldsmith’s College of Art and Design in London in the same year.

1975 Moves to New York

1980 Trip to Mexico. Scully uses watercolors to transcribe the experience of color and light directly onto paper.

1987 Scully develops his picture-in-picture procedure (inset): he places smaller pictures in larger ones.

1989 First European solo exhibition (London, Madrid and Munich).

1993 Nominated for the Turner-Prize.

1994 Sets up a new studio for himself in Barcelona.

1997 Solo exhibition in the New Gallery of the City of Linz (today: LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz).

1999 Scully moves into a studio in New York

2002–07 Teaches painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.

2007 Marries the painter Liliane Tomasko.

2009 Their son Oisín is born.

2012 Exhibitions Grey Wolf – Retrospective at the Kunstmuseum Bern and SEAN SCULLY. Retrospective in LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz.
Scully lives in New York, Barcelona and near Munich.

Room Texts
Introduction

The exhibition SEAN SCULLY. Retrospective is Sean Scully’s first major solo exhibition in Austria in over ten years. With the presentation of about fifty paintings and photographs LENTOS shows a comprehensive cross-section of the Irish-born artist’s oeuvre.

As an artist with European roots, with his finely nuanced paintings Sean Scully continues the tradition of painting, having knowledgeably traced its history back to the early Renaissance. Scully probes how painting can accompany life, that of the painter as well as of his audience: as a store of memories, a poetic afterimage of what has been seen, an expanded space of possibilities.
The grid structures in Scully’s early works were inspired by the inter-crossing railway bridges in his university city of Newcastle. In the early 1980s the artist’s work changed fundamentally. He moved from acrylic to oil painting using a weton-wet technique. The brush stroke thus remains visible in his works. The final coloration is created directly on the support as a result of multiple overpaintings.
The joints that are drawn irregularly between the individual color fields represent organic transitions between color blocks, imbuing the pictures with spontaneity and vitality. A change in the artist’s works becomes evident beginning in 2009, as brighter, warmer shades of color have made the paintings glow since then: “One of the keys to my work is the desire to create a light that promises eternity.” (Sean Scully, 1995)
The exhibition has been arranged in cooperation with the Kunstmuseum Bern. The artist has been kind enough to provide a brief commentary for each painting in the exhibition. The questions or beginnings of sentences here are from Annick Haldemann, curator of the Scully exhibition in the Kunstmuseum Bern, and Brigitte Reutner, curator of the exhibition in Linz. Scully’s commentaries are found in the original English version on the wall next to the art works, German translations are found here in the brochure.

Soft Ending, 1969

Acrylic on canvas, private collection

In 1969 Scully traveled to Morocco for the first time. The stripes and colors of the local weaving and the light of the south profoundly impressed him. The painting is one of the artist‘s early works. It shows influences from Optical Art (cf. Glossary) and from Geometrical Abstraction (cf. Glossary). It was executed in acrylic technique with an airbrush and adhesive tape.
The year 1969 was an exciting year for me, because …

...I had a big studio at the end of the building in the last town in

England before Scotland. So I thought of my room as the last corner, artistically speaking, of England, and that made it very exciting.
Blaze, 1971

Acrylic on canvas, private collection

As a student the artist painted large-format pictures showing a complicated, intersecting system of lines and grids. This in turn creates a multi-layered, optical field.
Blaze is fascinating, because ….

... it represents a picture of a virtual world that looks like a computer cyberspace and it is important to know that this painting was made before the invention of computers.
Inset #2, 1973

Acrylic on canvas, private collection

In 1972–73 Scully continued his studies at the Harvard University in Cambridge, USA, where he experimented with new techniques. In the lower area of the painting, two fields evince a structure similar to the background in the other fields. The painting Inset #2 thus paves the way for the disintegration of the geometrical grid structure.

Following his return from the US, Scully exhibited at the Rowan Gallery in London. During this first solo exhibition the 28-year-old artist sold all the paintings presented.


To me, communication means …

Communication means „communicate“ and this painting has a subject, an obvious subject. It’s a woven, non-geometric insert, falling into a virtual, again cyber-light city landscape and this gives the painting a strange, difficult, and fascinating quality.

It’s quite a crazy painting.
Black on Black, 1979

Oil paint over acrylic on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid

In 1975 Scully relocated to the US. In 1979, while working on Black on Black, he taught as a professor at the Princeton University, New Jersey. With the emphatic reduction to two differently bright shades of black, he takes up ideas from Minimal Art (cf. Glossary) in Black on Black.
What is the significance of the color black?

The significance of the color black is that of course, it is never black. It seems to be absolute but it is not. And all these colors, all these blacks that I used then, are all nocturnal colors, so it shows a deeply romantic impulse with strong ZEN underpinning.

Backs and Fronts, 1981

Oil on canvas, private collection



Backs and Fronts is considered one of Sean Scully‘s key works. The work is six meters long and consists of eleven panels. The outside edges are stepped, so that single parts of the picture optically advance or recede. Minor overlaps in color on the contours of the stripes imbue the picture motif with a lively vibration.
For my development, this picture means …

... a significant combination and an equally significant declaration of what I would do in the following decade. I am making relationships that seem difficult, arbitrary.
The Bather, 1983

Oil on canvas, private collection

In 1983 Scully became a US citizen. With large format paintings like Backs and Fronts, The Bather and Outback he attracted the attention of the art world. Participation in the legendary group exhibition An international survey of recent paintings and sculptures at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 1983 contributed to the artist‘s growing international reputation.
What is behind the title “The Bather”?

Generally I was trying to retrieve the idea of the figure, the inset, the insert. And this painting, being an homage to Matisse’s painting, the orange bar is exactly the same size as my shoulders. I took it off my own body to find the size of it.

Music, 1986

Oil on canvas, private collection

Important museums began to acquire and exhibit Scully’s paintings in the 1980s. In the course of his artistic development, the artist’s pictures became increasingly corporeal, architectonic and more direct in statement.
Music has to be exhibited, because…

...it has an open kind of beauty. It has an inclusive diagonal which makes everything turn to movement. It breaks the architectural reference that is in nearly all my work and refers to something else, in this case, music.
Catherine, 1987

Oil on canvas, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; Collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Donation of the Burnett Foundation

Beginning in 1979 Scully gave several newly created works the title Catherine. The artist initially chose classical pictures for this series, later they were more expressionist or experimental works. What they all have in common is that they are dedicated to a certain specific woman.
Catherine Lee is an American artist …

...who I was married to for many years and who I painted a picture in honor of every year. They do not represent necessarily the most resolved or the most classical paintings but for me the most interesting, personally, in some way, paintings that I learn from.
Day Night, 1990

Oil on canvas, private collection


Day Night works entirely with color values between white and black. The representation of light thus advances into the foreground. The composition consists of three gradated parts. The middle panel is raised and approaches the viewer, whereas the two side parts recede. The division into three parts takes up the idea of the medieval triptych (cf. Glossary) and imbues the works with an aura of the sacral. Day Night tells in three sequences how the day moves into the distance to make way for night.
The effect of light in paintings by Caspar David Friedrich …

... is extremely subtle. On one hand his paintings seem simply illustrative, yet the quality that elevates them is the edges between things. One can say this emphatically about my work. My work depends always on the edges between things.
Union Black, 1995

Oil on canvas, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf

Scully’s compositions demonstrate the relationships between the individual parts of the picture. Interwoven colors and forms thus lead from one point of the painting to a more distant one. Like the figure of the knight in a game of chess, they lead the viewers right across the entire picture space. At the same time, the color black is a consistent component.
The contrast of black and white …

... is always an attempt to show closure, finality and directness or simultaneously the idea unembellished by the complexities of color which are like emotional weather.
Uriel, 1997

Oil on canvas, LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz

There was already a solo exhibition of the artist in 1997 in the New Gallery of the City of Linz (predecessor institution of the LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz). The painting Uriel was acquired for the collection at the conclusion of the exhibition. Uriel is the name of an archangel.
To me, angels mean …

... messengers between two worlds, and I am fascinated by messengers and bridge builders and the other side.
Wall of Light Desert Night, 1999

Oil on canvas, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth

Wall of Light Desert Night arises before the viewer like a restlessly flickering curtain of light. The contours blur, giving way to an overall impression of shimmering forms. The painting seems as light, fragile, ephemeral and incorporeal as a mirage.
What does stillness mean to you?

Stillness is a possibility to be alone with yourself, without panic, to see yourself in relation to eternity.
Yellow Mask, 2003

Oil on canvas, private collection


From 2002–2007 Scully was professor for painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He moved into a studio in the idyllic Bavarian foothills of the Alps. Yellow glows in several field in Yellow Mask. Scully associates this color with madness, jealousy and sex.

The mask is a social necessity …

...to make certain actions possible, that would not be possible were one unmasked. In that sense, the mask becomes like a medium in a way, such as painting.
Grey Wolf, 2007

Oil on aluminium, Kunstmuseum Bern

The creation of the painting was documented with the film Grey Wolf by Hans A. Guttner. The film premieres in LENTOS on 26 July 2012 at 7:00 pm, following the guided tour with the curator Brigitte Reutner.
Who is the “Grey Wolf”?

I was driving once across the Pyrenees Mountains in France in the middle of the winter, and I stopped at night because I had to go to the bathroom. I was standing next to a tree and two eyes were looking at me. It was a wolf. We just looked at each other. I wanted to pay homage to the short friendship I had with this beautiful animal. That’s the grey wolf.
Floating Painting Sky, 2007

Oil on aluminium, private collection

For Sean Scully, painting is a sensual, material act. According to his own statement, with the oil paint the artist lays a skin over the body of the image made of aluminium. Floating Painting Sky blocks the path of the viewer like a cross-bar. Corporeality is no longer feigned here with painterly means. It is really there.
Sculptural painting ….

... attempts to join the flat and the three-dimensional. This floating painting is like a door that has opened and stands perpendicular to the wall, demonstrating the tenuous grip that painting has had in the culture at certain points.
Window Wall, 2007

Oil on canvas, private collection

For Scully the window is not only an architectural element. Instead it forms the link between two realities. Just as some people consider the eyes as a mirror to the soul, a window can mediate between interior and exterior space in many different contexts.

The window as illuminated part of the wall …

... gives another view. It is a painting with a double body, it is a body containing a body. In this intimate painting the window becomes embedded into the work and thus radiates a very subtle difference between it and the body in which it is living.
Titian’s Robe Pink 08, 2008

Oil on aluminium, private collection

Paintings from the series Robe Paintings have an even grid as basic structure. They were originally painted on canvas, to which the designation Robe refers. In the way he works, Scully feels very close to the Italian painter Titian. Tiziano Vecellio (born between 1488 and 1490 in Pieve di Cadore, died 1576 in Venice) is considered one of the most important painters of the Italian Renaissance.
Has it to do with chromatic alchemy?

The answer is yes, because, as in all my paintings, the color is made on the painting. Therefore it is impossible to achieve these colors in any other way. They have to be mixed on the painting. So they are the result of the brushstroke, the weight of the brushstroke, the weight of surface and the way various colors are mixing in front of you.
12 Triptychs, 2008

Oil on copper, private collection

The work consists of twelve three-part picture works. The interrelationships of differently bright bars represent a continuous transformation. The mood changes from the reflected light of the last golden hues of late autumn to a misty gray November day.
When things change step by step …

... you make something that you can’t predict in the beginning. And each little painting here is, in a sense, a response to the previous painting. But at the end, as in much of my work, it does not arrive at conclusiveness, it is still meant to be open.
Cut Ground Light Blue, 2010

Oil on canvas, private collection

The title reveals that Sean Scully draws lines in an underground, thus dividing it into single fields. This is also shown by photos of sand drawings made in 2010 on Islamorada before the southern tip of Florida. They document this artistic act, which wind and waves have turned into transient art.
What do you think of this picture?

I think of this picture “Cut Ground Light Blue” as feeding overtly off of nature: off of the sky, sea and the land. It is an irregular grid that is informed overtly by nature.
Cut Ground Orange Pink 6.11, 2011

Oil on canvas, private collection

The small format canvas work is one of the most recent in the exhibition. It was made in Scully’s studio in the Bavarian foothills of the Alps. When the two curators discovered it for the exhibition in the artist’s studio, Scully picked up a pen and signed it …
When the shadows vanish …

the world of color is released and the space in the painting becomes significantly flatter.



Sean Scully’s Photographs

Scully’s photo series were created during his travels to Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France, Mexico, Morocco, the Dominican Republic and to Mallorca.

In 1979 he took a series of photos for the first time of ten doors in Sienna. The doors he chose were not from noble palaces of the Tuscan city. Instead the artist was on his way through side streets little frequented by tourists. Scully says that when he took the pictures, he knew exactly what would be seen in the photo. While he concentrated in the beginning on doors, he expanded the picture segment in the 1980s to entire fronts of houses. He took pictures of dilapidated city houses and huts, stone houses and half-decayed barns.

For his photo series Scully searches the real world for compositions of horizontals and verticals. He concentrates on a two-dimensional arrangement of the visual motif that is reflected in a grid system: a grid system drawn by life itself. Scully’s paintings and photographs mutually comment on one another. Looking at the large format pictures, one sometimes feels reminded of sequences from neorealistic films. Pictures of an unpretentious world, selected by a painter whose paintings allow soft forms, in-between stages, blur filters and are endlessly open to interpretation.



Glossary

Abstraction: Strictly speaking, abstraction involves an art form which simplifies or schematizes the object of imitation, but still regards the basic form of that object. Much non-western and tribal art is abstract, as representations of human bodies and animal forms, for example, are still recognizable as such, although no attempt has been made to imitate those forms faithfully.

Computer-Cyberspace: The computer has attained a new significance for art since the early nineties with computer animation, as it enables perspectival spaces and

figures as models of perfect illusion.



Geometrical Abstraction: Creation of an artwork following mathematical rules, making direct use of the “concrete” image elements surface, line, volume, space and

color.


Conceptual Art: In Conceptual art, the final art object is usually irrelevant, and artists use it as a means of attacking the commercialization of easel-painting and other forms of gallery art. Conceptual art has also privileged the ideas of artists, as conception is more important to it than perception, and the creative processes of the artists have been seen to be allimportant. Conceptual art takes many forms: the written word, the photograph or the video.

Inset: Something placed in or within something else; insert.

Minimalism, Minimal Art: The apparent simplicity of Minimalist art hides the complexity of its intellectual structure. While the work may exhibit a ‘minimal art content’, it challenges the beholder to experience a layered and complex aesthetic response based on each individual’s expectations and prejudices. In this way an artwork with minimal content demands of the beholder a maximal response, and perhaps for this reason Minimalism is often seen, at least in popular opinion, as a difficult and intractable

movement best discussed within the narrow confines of the art world.



Optical Art: Optical art works by focusing interest exclusively on the question of visual perception while reducing to insignificance any potential interest in subject matter and avoiding a gestural handling of paint liable to draw attention back to the physicality of the painting.

Triptych: A picture, often a portable altarpiece intended for private devotion, consisting of a central panel with two hinged wings which can be closed over the central image for protection.

Zen: Current of Buddhism. “Zen is not something exciting, but rather concentrating on everyday tasks.” (Shunryu Suzuki)
Corresponding entries in English are taken from: The Bulfinch Guide to Art History. A Comprehensive Survey and Dictionary of Western Art and Architecture, General Editor Shearer West. Boston u.a. 1996

Quotations (on the wall)

(in chronological order)


Backcloth, 1970

Acrylic on canvas, private collection



To me, Concept Art of the 70s means …

a tremendous interest in procedure, a ritual, an attempt to bring back a kind of ethical morality and a making of art and accepting the visual results of that procedure.


Diagonal Inset, 1973

Acrylic on canvas, private collection



You can hang it however you want, …

you can hang anything however you want You can hang Rembrandts “Nightwatch” upside down if you want. But I prefer to give it a sense of weight and place. So I put the insets at the bottom so that they are surrounded by a grid.


Hidden Drawing #2, 1975

Acrylic on canvas, private collection



What is hidden is …

all the drawing that you can’t see. So a painting is, instead of being illusionistic, it becomes archaeological. But again, very interested in overlapping simultaneous systems.


Outback, 1984

Oil on canvas, private collection



Order and chaos …

are creative and combined in the same person. It is an example of the divided self.


Pale Fire, 1988

Oil on canvas, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; Museum purchase Sid W. Richardson Foundation Endowment Fund

Pale Fire” tells of ….

a perfect ground which could be likened to the immaculate American flag, polluted by a dark and uncertain window which now seems very prophetic.


Africa, 1989

Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid



Rhythms are intervals of time …

Well, I can only agree with you. Africa has a dark, broody, dusty light, and it reminds me of the soil and the sand of Africa, and the window which gives relief is very hazy.
Hammering, 1990

Oil on canvas, Kunsthalle Bielefeld



Seeing the brush stroke …

allows you to follow its narrative. And a narrative is an insistent kind of drumming, hammered out in black and white.


Catherine, 1991

Oil on canvas, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas



The harmony in the composition …

...comes from competition rather than accommodation. The painting is classical and it’s strong, somewhat challenging, the elements are put in simultaneous existence having to declare themselves again and again for their existence in the painting.
Between Figures, 1992

Oil on canvas and steel, private collection



What is between the figures?

The bridge. So the painting is concerned with two inserts, which are the figures, and in between them is a panel that conciliates between them, brings information back and forth between them. It allows you to pass from one end of the painting to the other, and for that you need a bridge.
Lucia, 1992–1996

Oil on canvas, BAWAG Foundation, Wien



Lucia is the name …

of a painting by Caravaggio. This is a painting of pure revenge. I was in Sicily trying to see Caravaggio’s painting in Santa Lucia. And typically in Sicily they open the museum when they feel like it. Since I never got to see the painting, I painted my own.


Stare Red Yellow, 1997

Oil on canvas, private collection, Paris



Tell us more about the couple in terms of a human relationship.

Stare” is something that stares back at you. You stare at it, it stares back at you. And these two figures are the same, but because they are conditioned by the context, they are changed. This of course is a metaphor for how human beings are profoundly made and affected by the contrast. Human beings are not sacrosanct.



Landline Black, 2010

Oil on canvas, private collection



Where have you “landed”?

On a very austere, beautiful island of contemplation.
Small Wall of Light Light Blue, 2010

Oil on canvas, private collection



When the sky comes through the cracks in the wall, …

it humanizes it in some way, makes it accessible. This little painting is a landscape rearranged into a loose grid.


Wall of Light Golden Brown, 2010

Oil on aluminium, private collection



A sea of honey …

would be a very restricted palette. Thus the sense of moving the material around becomes more powerful. The more restricted the palette, the more powerful becomes the sense of hand and brushstroke and edge-making. And in this painting the color is on



the edge of becoming monochromatic.
Wall of Light Cream Magenta, 2010

Oil on canvas, private collection



What is fascinating about the painting is a muted luminescence. Which feelings do you associate with the picture ?

I associate this picture with the end of a day on a farm in the deep countryside.
Cut Ground Blue Pink, 2011

Oil on canvas, private collection, Switzerland



What is the painting about ?

It is a painting of great color complexity. The color is both bright and dark. Falling and Rising. A dark but vital light.
Cut Ground Yellow Blue 6.11, 2011

Oil on canvas, private collection



Not everything can be clearly recognized in the mist …

which is its poetic charge. That’s why we are drawn to it, because it gives us simplification. And this little painting travels between chromatic intensity and romantic mist.



Catalogue Foreword
August 2010. We arrived in the little village from opposite directions. We had agreed to meet in Sean Scully’s studio in Bavaria. It was Scully who had brought us together. Independently of each other, we had both been working on the idea of dedicating a major retrospective exhibition to Sean Scully in our museums, the Kunstmuseum Berne and the LENTOS Kunstmuseum in Linz. As a project it was long overdue, eagerly anticipated by all who have followed Sean Scully’s art with curiosity and passion. And yet, at first sight, Scully’s work does not appear to suffer from a lack of public exposure – or from a lack of publications. He exhibits his work continually. Scully’s biography lists no fewer than 216 solo exhibitions between 1972 and late 2011 / early 2012; and then there are the joint and group exhibitions that add up to about twice that number. But most of these exhibitions have been devoted to a single group of works, a thematic complex or a specific period, and thus do not present the major survey which we had in mind. On that August day, the two of us were both driven by the desire that is probably the most relevant, the most urgent motif of any curator: to see with our own eyes how, with which movements, with which changes and transitions Scully’s oeuvre has developed over more than four decades. We each possessed in our collections a representative work to which we felt a particular affinity: Grey Wolf of 2007 in the Kunstmuseum Berne and Uriel of 1997 in the LENTOS.

The drive from the nearest major town to Mooseurach took us through Bavarian countryside : past fields, woods, and pastures of grazing cattle. Scully the artist loves the contrasts between the three places in which he now lives and works in turn: New York, Barcelona, and Bavaria. Having been born in Ireland and having grown up in the unattractive south of London, today Scully seems to have secured for himself the best living and working conditions in both the Old and the New World. However, if we expected to find a rural idyll in a farmhouse, reality soon made it clear to us that the con ditions for his painting were the determining factor in Scully’s choice of where to live. We arrived not at a farmhouse, no cosy little complex of snug living rooms, but rather an industrial building with light, spacious rooms in which the living and working areas of Scully and his wife, the Swiss painter Liliane Tomasko, lie directly next to each other.

The latest large-format works hung on the walls; some were still being worked on and some made use of the technique that Scully preferred during that summer : oil on aluminium. We could see that the paint application had become freer in comparison to earlier works. Most of the pictures consisted of rectangular patches of color – the typical stripes had given way to larger units of color. While we followed the artist into his archive in order to find the earliest available works, we realized at once that we could count on some new works between that visit and the start of our exhibitions in 2012. And that is exactly what happened. The most recent works which we are showing in this exhibition were completed just a few months ago.

Sean Scully is a very productive artist. In January 2012, the catalogue raisonné on his website listed more than 1,200 paintings, starting with the realistic depiction of three succulents in a pot, Cactus of 1964, and continuing to the Cut Ground… series of 2011. And that does not include the works on paper or the photography and sculptures.

The exhibition – which we have put together with considerable support from the artist himself and his assistants Arturo Rucci and Frank Hutter, together with the curators Annick Haldemann (Bern) and Brigitte Reutner (Linz) – takes as its starting point Scully’s decision in favor of geometrical-abstract painting. Soft Ending of 1969 is the oldest work in the exhibition; from it a trajectory arches forward into the present, with virtually every year represented by a characteristic work. Annick Haldemann and Brigitte Reutner worked on the questions, which together with Scully’s answers provide an intellectual basis for every work in this book.

In Scully’s art we can detect the links to earlier models, intellectual and formal benchmarks – Matisse, Mondrian, Pollock, and Rothko – but with his reduced, apparently simple form language he has created a unique visual identity which links together his entire oeuvre.

The viewer who wishes to assess this oeuvre in its entirety will need time. But even those who focus their attention on a single picture will encounter a great, inimitable artist whose works convey an existential, a spiritual dimension which is rare in the contemporary art of today. Scully is not a postmodern artist who disguises the seriousness of his own aims through quotations and irony out of consideration for an (art) world focused on coolness and hedonism: achieving the best that we can be, what we can think and create – and understanding that which repeatedly hinders us, which inhibits and injures us. The artist is always present in his works : in the painting with the traces of his hand, and in the picture titles with hints of autobiographical references. Each work forms an interface between the personal and the universal. It is at this point that the specific experience which Scully’s art makes possible takes place.

We should like to thank all those who have worked on this exhibition and this publication. We are grateful first and foremost to Sean Scully for his help, his generosity, and for the inspiration he has given us. And our genuine thanks also go to the lenders for entrusting their works to us for the duration of these exhibitions.

The Board of Trustees and the management of the Kunstmuseum Bern would also like to express its thanks to the Credit Suisse, the partner of the Kunstmuseum Bern, for its trust and generous support for the exhibition and the catalogue, as well as to the team responsible for the realization of the exhibition under the direction of René Wochner.

The LENTOS Kunstmuseum would like to thank the Raiffeisenlandesbank Oberösterreich, which regularly provides generous support for the museum’s unusual projects. Thanks and recognition for the realization of the exhibition are due to the museum workshop team under the direction of Andreas Strohhammer.


Stella Rollig Matthias Frehner

Director LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz Director Kunstmuseum Bern

Press Images


    Some of the press images are also available for downloading at www.lentos.at.


    Sean Scully

    Blaze, 1971

    Private collection

    Photo: © Sean Scully

    Sean Scully

    Inset #2, 1973

    Private collection

    Photo: © Sean Scully


    Sean Scully

    Backs and Fronts, 1981

    Private collection

    Photo: © Sean Scully

    Sean Scully

    Pale Fire, 1988

    Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas

    Museum purchase, Sid W. Richardson Foundation Endowment Fund

    Photo: © Sean Scully



    Sean Scully

    Catherine, 1991

    Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas

    Photo: © Sean Scully




    Sean Scully

    Uriel, 1997

    LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz
    Photo: © Sean Scully





Sean Scully

Grey Wolf, 2007

Kunstmuseum Bern

Photo: © Sean Scully



Sean Scully

Wall of Light Golden Brown, 2010

Private collection

Photo: © Sean Scully





Sean Scully

Cut Ground Yellow Blue 6.11, 2011

Private collection

Photo: © Sean Scully





Sean Scully, 2009

Photo: © Sean Scully





    Sean Scully

    Untitled Valencia, Spain, 2002

    C-Print on alu-dibond

    Private collection

    Photo: © Sean Scully





12. Sean Scully, 2012

Photo: © maschekS.

13. LENTOS-Director Stella Rollig, Sean Scully and the

curator Brigitte Reutner

Photo: © maschekS.



14. Exhibition view
SEAN SCULLY. Retrospective
LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz

Photo: © maschekS.




15. Exhibition view
SEAN SCULLY. Retrospective
LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz

Photo: © maschekS.




LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz, A-4021 Linz, Ernst-Koref-Promenade 1

Tel: +43 (0)732.7070-3600 Fax: +43 (0)732.7070-3604 www.lentos.at




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