Friday, 21 October 2011

Sean Scully at the Kerlin Gallery

Here are a couple of the photographs taken by Nick Smith when I went to interview Sean Scully in Germany earlier this year. The painting behind Sean in the top photograph is titled "Put it Back" and belongs to Sean's son Oisin. The interview is in the current edition of Turps Banana along with Dan Coombs piece on Tomma Abts. You can download it from itunes here.
This one is just to prove that I was there!
Sean is currently showing work at the Kerlin Gallery in Dublin 6 October - 19 November. The exhibition includes these delightful works:


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Cut Ground Blue Pink 2011 153 x 153
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Wall of Light Grey White 2011 153 x 153

15 comments:

  1. Thanks Harry and may you shine brightly.

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  2. I really don't quite get the fuss around Sean Scully. He seems to me to have adopted the Ab Ex portentousness and repetition without a truly compelling format to repeat. I wanted to be converted at Timothy Taylor (last year?) but they all just seemed inert and oversized.

    Can you explain it to me?

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  3. It's because the objectivity has gone. When Scully shows in Ireland (as he is doing at the moment) the critics (the few critics) ignore everything else that's going on and stick him on the front page. None of them have stood back and asked exactly what he's doing? There are very good abstract artists out there, equal to or better than Scully but they're being ignored in favour of his reputation.

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  4. I've grown to really enjoy a number of his works over the years. His older work is not in my enjoyment category, but his newer work is much more lush and filled with more expression. He's been freeing up his hand as the years go on.

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  5. I can't make you drink however I have some sympathy with your observations, the repetition of form and the palette constraints but I felt the love and honesty in Sean. When I asked him about these concerns he openly admitted that this was his nature and he had the confidence to examine the world and himself with the tools he has to hand. You really need to read the interview in Turps and hear where he has come from and look at where he has arrived. Take time. His painting is emotional and honest. He asserts that part of his struggle is to retain the structure and with self awareness asks Why would I give it up it took a lot to get it?

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  7. Thank you for the reply; I hope you don't feel that I'm being deliberately contentious. I will certainly check out the Turps interview.

    I think I could have phrased my question differently. I suppose my doubt is less about his sincerity or even (to an extent) the value of what he is doing. I believe that his painting is 'emotional and honest' + even that the repetition is hard-won. My confusion, as SamPW already stressed, is more that there are many abstract artists of his generation who are completely ignored. Why is he the success, when as I see it he should simply be one of a number of artists recognised as working from out of the same premises ? (i.e continuation of AbEx)

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  8. There are many artists that feel they have been hard done by and many that never get recognition for the work they spend their lives doing. I think people make their decisions in life knowing this. There will always be songs that make number one that many people don't like. So the simple answer to your confusion, scepticism and question is Sean Scully has worked hard. Which artists do you feel should out rank Sean?

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  9. Of course you're right there will always be lots of hard-working but unfairly rewarded artists.

    How about Alan Gouk? (I have an interest here in that I used to work at Poussin Gallery and have written about Alan on a number of occasions). Its not that I necessarily think Alan ranks above Sean more that I think it unfortunate that they both can't be present, if not in the sense of the market but at least within criticism (though the former seems inevitably to distort the latter). Instead of the image of Scully striking out on his own, it would seem much more healthy if in general his achievements could be directly compared to those of his peers.

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  10. hahaha Sean recognised this and that's why he left the UK. Surely he can't be held to account for having achieved success abroad as if this is what kept others unrecognised. Sean is more hailed abroad than in the UK. With regard to Alan Gouk, for me, he is an accomplished painter and part of our roll call of artists but he hasn't found his voice, mark in the way that Sean has. Alan Gouk is committed and charming but in his own words "I have no conscious aims, no intentions". But perhaps you can change my mind?

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  11. Yes I can see why these comparisons would be something to get away from; though its before my time, it does seem that though the seventies and eighties, as the size of the abstract-pie got smaller and smaller each slice was fought over with increasing bitterness. Though Gouk has mellowed it seems he was part of an overly combative scene.

    I suppose really we're talking about two things now. 1) my personal uncertainty about Sean Scully and 2) my feeling that there are certain painters who deserve a bit more recognition. As you say it is completely unreasonable for Scully himself to be blamed for the general situation.

    Your comment about Gouk is interesting in that it in part mirrors my problem with Scully. Beyond my difficulties with individual pictures, I see Scully as too repetitive, too conscious of design, of what a picture will look and feel like; conversely you can see beyond this in Scully but then see Gouk as a bit all over the place.

    I would partly agree with your assessment of Gouk's painting. It is, particularly in comparison with Scully's, enourmously varied. Often paintings do not come off or appear overworked, struggled over and sometimes I find his colour very difficult. But this is, I think, the flipside of a greater ambition, a desire to try and force the issue within each painting and when it comes off it can be very powerful. Variety also means that you need to be on your toes a bit more, whereas I see Scully's paintings provoking a response that is a little too passive. I'd say there are lots of good, large Gouks from the end of the eighties and through to the mid-nineties. Before that there are lots of good things though they are more isolated (even more eclectic - though this is also to do with survival, dispersion). In recent years perhaps the smaller works + gouches are better. Of course it is very hard to get a feel for this range within the sort of exhibitions he gets.

    As a PS: On lack of conscious aims or intentions I think here he is talking about the act itself, when he is in the painting so to speak; but when he is not painting he still thinks deeply about where his painting in general should go. The problem is that (as he has told it) often his intent is completely subverted once he begins. Lava Gull, one of the best of his paintings I have seen, is incredibly heavily painted, with inches of paint, but supposedly began as an effort to thin out his painting, to have hue rather than material carry its effect.

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  12. Alan Gouk is an ol' Jazzer and his intuitive response was popular in his time but John Hoyland as another comparison, coming from the same period, challenged and invented so much more. Lava Gul eludes me because I can't reconcile putting that puddle in the centre of the painting. It is painted in a controlled fashion which suggests considered placement, not a letting rip and therefore the structure would have been intended. So I then believe he had reason to put focus on the muddy patch that rests atop the purple block. But I cannot fathom why? If he had wanted it to work as negative space it could have been done more succinctly but as it is, it becomes landscape. It strikes me as sloppy not revolutionary. It is as if he couldn't decide and art is surely about decisions one of which is to cut out the subverted intentions that don't work. Your obvious passion for Gouk is engaging but it is still not one I share.

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  13. I really think its not a puddle (when seen not in jpeg form perhaps), more of a big twisting thing, that engages with all the other blocks around it. Its that dynamism which Scully, for me, lacks - all you can do is sit back and take in its seriousness, whereas Gouk allows you to grapple with things which are big and present,but which you have to work out for yourself. Landscape trumps quilt?

    I appreciate neither of us are going to be made to drink but this is fun anyway

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  14. hahaha I think Landscape trumps quilt wins the analogy prize.

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