Sat 18 Nov 2023 to Sat 13 Apr 2024
Artist: Sean Scully
For his first exhibition at Lisson Gallery Beijing, Sean Scully builds upon recent bodies of work, including his Wall of Light and Landline painting series, while also featuring two recent small-scale sculptural works made from rough-hewn stone blocks.
Throughout his 50-year-long artistic career, Scully has practiced a form of abstraction that aims to reshape the genre. His recent Landlines, of which there is a 2023 example subtitled Grey Blue in this exhibition, result from the hard-won layering and merging of oil pigments in coloured bands across the panel's aluminium surface, in the manner of sedimentary rock striations or horizon lines, suggesting meeting points between earth and sky or between nature and architecture.
Scully often blends and blurs the boundaries between his own bodies of work, showing not only a prowess in tonal balance and pictorial construction, but also an ability to revisit and recompose the essence of abstraction over time and across decades of production. Indeed, the other paintings in this show follow a square format and introduce Scully's newest group of Wall paintings. They recall not only the dry-stone and wooden walls found around the countryside of Ireland and Scotland that were the subject of some of his earliest photographs and striped works, but present complex woven passages of paint referencing and remixing some of Scully's previous compositions, with vertical inflections and doubled ‘bricks’ disturbing the otherwise neat symmetry of each square. “I’m trying to turn stone into light,” the artist has said of the manner in which these building blocks add up to something positive or “clear in its aspiration: to make a wall that is not a brutal divider.”
The similarly square-formatted, multipartite sculptures, entitled Small Cubed (both from 2021) recall Scully's monumental, quarried works such as Wall Dale Cubed comprised of over 1,000 tonnes of stone or the rugged, shaped stacks of sand-coloured stone, Tower Light Cubed (2023), recently on view in the UK at Houghton Hall for his major show, 'Smaller than the Sky'. These more modest iterations of stone sculpture for Beijing are no less concerned with their own weight, heft and concentrated form, using gravity and geometry to bind themselves, while maintaining an irregular, abstract quality, due to the hand-cut nature of the materials, which disrupts any over- wrought or clean-cut rigour.
In addition to his show at Lisson Gallery Los Angeles (ending on 4 November) and major European museum shows in the past year, at Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen and at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest, Scully's full-scale US touring retrospective, ‘The Shape of Ideas’, was seen at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Fort Worth in 2021-22. Indeed, Scully was the first Western artist to have a travelling survey in China in 2014, with ‘Follow the Heart: The Art of Sean Scully 1964 – 2014’ that went on display in Shanghai and Beijing – the last time his work was seen in depth in the city. Scully is also participating in the Chengdu Biennale, entitled ‘Time Gravity’ at Tianfu Art Park.