The Emotion and Nuance of Sean Scully Abstraction

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Artist Sean Scully

Sean Scully is among the world’s foremost current abstract artists. Inspired by everything from Classical ideals to the earthy, Scully is sensitive and spiritual. His art finds new ways to distill powerful meanings into simple geometric shapes.

The signature element in a Sean Scully painting is his use of squares and rectangular shapes. The pieces consist of woven or interlocked colored blocks. The blocks are not solid. Instead, the brush strokes give them a wavy look. They are open to meaning and draw the eye in fascinating ways. There is a balance between structure and freedom. The shapes used are recognizable, but meaning is left for the viewer.

Abstract Artist Sean ScullyArt is alive and is constantly interacting with our world. It is never final, it changes and grows with each viewer. Scully feels that paintings should not need to explain themselves. Because of this philosophy, his paintings had challenged critics when they first became known. There is deep emotion and nuance that is not readily apparent. Significance is divined by each individual and their own experiences.

The most fascinating aspect of these paintings is in how elements function together. Scully’s paintings are living and malleable things. Each component has a relationship to each other. This is striking in subtle ways. It is a marriage between the simplicity of the painting and the complexity of how each piece comes together.

Sean Scully has remarked that his art has come from suffering. As a child he grew up poor in London and experienced heightened anxiety due to abuse in his family. He once compared his childhood to a warzone. In 1983, his son passed away. He admitted in interviews that he had trouble accepting this and instead threw himself into his work. It seems that he completely gives himself over to the creative process when experiencing pain. This brings a cathartic element into his works.

Ultimately, Scully’s wish is for his paintings to speak globally, not locally. This is the appeal of abstraction. It can be understood readily by many different people. Through this medium, Sean Scully can translate difficult emotions and ideas into something that is easy to grasp.


Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original paintings by artists we represent, contact Ackerman’s Fine Art here.

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