Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ireland-Sean Scully

Sean Scully Exhibition
Cut Ground

Kerlin Gallery

On my last day in Ireland, October 6th, my friend Mary and I went to see Sean Scully's show at Kerlin Gallery, in Dublin.  It was just opening that day and I was hoping to see it before I left Ireland.

I spent some time in the gallery and just as I decided to leave, to my surprise and delight, there was Sean Scully coming up the stairs.  He was to be interviewed for Irish television by the Irish painter, Sinead Ni Mhaonaigh.  Scully is a very tall and imposing figure, balding, with a fringe of short grey hair and a stubbily grey beard, looking every bit his sixty-six years until he begins to speak.  Then his entire demeanour changes and a fire comes into his eyes.

I was really privileged to be able to listen to the entire interview as I stood in the gallery.  Scully and Sinead roamed around the enormous white space as the videographer moved the huge rolling camera in and out and around the conversation.  Scully discussed his thoughts on painting and life, talking about how his work is informed by grief, particularly the loss of his son in the 80's, which forever transformed his use of colour.  Listening to his wide-ranging and intense thoughts on the future of art, his disdain for conceptual art, his love of painting, I felt like I was hearing a man who is a warrior for the importance of  deep, emotional, resonant art in the world.  His work is informed by his own brand of spirituality and he is unafraid to say that.  In fact, when asked which two people he would like to meet, living or dead, cited Jesus Christ because he was such an independent thinker, and Mahatma Ghandi.

Sean Scully with Sinead Ni Mhaonaigh for Irish Television RTE

I asked him to sign the stunningly beautiful boxed catalogues that accompanied this exhibition.The catalogues included three inserts. The covers of two of them are written in Arabic.  One catalogue will accompany his exhibition at Kerlin Gallery at Abu Dhabi Art Fair, November 16-19 and refers to time Scully has spent in Morocco.  That part of the exhibition is called Tin Mal, which refers to an important spiritual site in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Scully has painted a series of major works dedicated to sacred sites, the first being Iona, 2004-2006, now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This exhibition is called Cut Ground and refers to a story from Scully's childhood where he stole candles from his church and hid them away in his garden, in an effort to keep the light.

My residency and visit to Ireland are over for now.  I will be processing this journey for some time and will write more of my thoughts about it as I go along.  But I know I will be back in Ireland next September.  I've already been accepted into the artist residency, Cill Railaig, near the Ring of Kerry, in County Kerry.

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