Wall of Light Summer
August 5, 2005
Oil on linen
Purchased through the Miriam and Sidney Stoneman Acquisitions Fund; 2006.16
Sean Scully's Wall of Light Summer is an exceptional work in a series he has been making since 1998. A profoundly intellectual painter and one of the greatest colorists, Scully has for some time now explored the contradictions inherent in the title of his series the Wall of Light paintings. The blocks of color in his walls are weighty, but this weight is in turn denied by their color and texture, and by the way they breathe and reveal the surfaces behind them. Scully has always built his paintings, and each color block is heavily layered, with many of his original colors ultimately obliterated, incorporated, or infiltrated into the eventual surface colors.
In recent years, Scully's paintings have become more loose and painterly in style, and the edges of his architectonic color-block structures have softened, allowing the colors behind to seep through and provide a more subtle framework for his compositions. Wall of Light Summer is a sheer delight, a fabulous ode to joy that is infrequent in Scully’s output. Scully himself acknowledges the painting as "rapturous." It was made in Munich (where he is Professor of Painting at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste) following a lot of other paintings in summer 2005 and before he went on holidays to Rome. He felt "unburdened and happy at the time" and the resultant painting felt "real and had a happiness and joy about it,” which he admits is unusual for him. The painting is "quite mad" in its color combinations, which makes it "the kind of painting you would have in any retrospective of my work."
The paint surface of Wall of Light Summer is varied in texture and totally confident and assured. It will work well with the Hood's fine collection of works which tell the story of postwar abstract art, especially Orange and Lilac over Ivory (1953) by Mark Rothko, an artist to whom Scully is hugely indebted. Scully's pursuit of painting has sometimes been a lonely journey in his constant pursuit of excellence, and Wall of Light Summer is a wonderful addition to the Hood's collections. As Scully remarked about his work: "It has mystery in it, and it’s very hot and romantic, but I’m not working towards an absolute. I will talk about realism in the work, its physicality and the violence of cutting into surfaces. I’m quite ruthless and relentless. The works are all about these tensions and contradictions in me. They’re formal yet they’re sexual, austere, and mysterious at the same time, mysterious to me also."1
1. Sean Scully in an interview with Adrian Dannatt entitled "I Don't Have the American Ambition of Being the Next Great Abstract Artist," Flash Art 25, no. 164 (May-June 1992): 106. All other quotes are from Brian Kennedy in conversation with Sean Scully, March 17, 2006.
Last Updated: 11/14/06