“I have spent my life making the melancholic into something irresistible. Because the world has changed around me and become more regretful, my paintings have become more true.” Sean Scully
Yorkshire Sculpture Park presents Sean Scully: Inside Outside, the largest-ever presentation of sculptures and first exhibition of sculpture and painting in the UK by the Irish-born artist. Exploring concepts of landscape and abstraction with human experience, the exhibition unites sculpture with important recent paintings on aluminium and linen, together with works on paper. Drawing out ideas pertinent to the singularity of YSP and its landscape, this is a poetic, robust experience that embraces the Park’s topography and Scully’s exceptional vigour, as well as his belief that in life and art there is perpetual discovery.
The exhibition presents an artist at the height of his powers. Aged 72, it is evident that there is no curtailment of Scully’s energy, drive and vision. Keenly aware of the labour that dominated the lives of his mining family, Scully’s practice is one of great rigour and toil, his output prodigious. For YSP he will make new painting and sculpture – resolutely contemporary works that will integrate an inclination towards geometry with the romantic sincerity of landscape painting in the historical tradition.
Born in Dublin in 1945, raised in London, and resident in New York since 1975, Scully is considered to be one of the most important abstract painters working today. Drawing on European traditions but with the distinct character and scale prevalent in the USA, Scully is credited with reinvigorating abstract painting. Whilst best known for his paintings on canvas and aluminium, and works on paper, during Scully’s early years as a student at Newcastle University (1968–72) and as a Graduate Fellow at Harvard University (1972–73), he made experimental sculptures and structures, often using materials associated with women’s domestic work which alluded to or shared the grids and frameworks then current in his painting. Raised in an economically deprived South London household, Scully recalls being the darner of socks for the family, and considers that the weft and weave of this early experience informed the development of both his grid-like painting and sculpture.
Over the past 15 years Scully has returned to sculpture, working in steel and stone to make powerful structures that both assert and subvert their materiality. His now celebrated Wall of Light paintings from the 1990s – structures formed from irregular blocks of colour that imply both strength and impermanence – have materialised into the massive sculpture, Wall of Light Cubed (2018). Similarly, Scully’s enormous Are You Looking at Me? (2018) sculpture in welded steel is uncompromising, defined by rusted steel horizontal and vertical frames that are ‘boxes of air’ – air that constantly changes and transforms with the seasons, times of the day, and weather. Respectively sited in YSP’s historic landscape – the formal Lower Park and more rugged Country Park – these vast metallic and stone sculptures demand a physical trek across the landscape that is extended further uphill through the former hunting ground of the Bretton Estate to Longside Gallery. The experience of walking between the sculptures and gallery thereby matching the energy and physicality of the exhibition.
A limited-edition print accompanies the exhibition to help support YSP, a not-for-profit institution with a highly significant educational remit. Also opening in September is Sean Scully: Landline at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, featuring never before seen works from the artist’s acclaimed Landline series, from 13 September 2018–6 January 2019.