Sean Scully in his studio Photograph by Steve Joy
Although born in Dublin, in 1945, Sean Scully was raised in London. He attended Croydon Art College in the late 1960s, before studying at Newcastle. He moved to New York in 1975, and became an American citizen eight years later.
Working between New York, Barcelona and Munich, Scully has exhibited widely in Europe and the United States and is represented in the permanent collections of a number of museums and public galleries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the Tate Gallery, London and many other private and public collections worldwide.
Scully was twice nominated for the Turner Prize, in 1989 and 1993 respectively. He was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and was elected as a Royal Academician in 2012.
In the 1980s, Scully moved away from his precisely gridded works of the 1970s to create a uniquely sculptural form of painting, consisting of monumental interconnecting three dimensional panels worked in strong earthy colours with hand-drawn lines and stripes. Subtly figurative despite their resolute abstraction they powerfully suggested fragility and fallibility.
In the 1990s Scully embarked on his now celebrated Wall of Light paintings. Described as ‘visual utopias' by David Carrier, these works were the subject of a major touring exhibition culminating at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2007. Taking inspiration from a visit to Mexico in the early 1980s, Scully began to replace the precise stripes of his earlier pieces with blocks of colour, building them with increasingly loose and feathered brushstrokes into irregular structures or ‘walls' that imply both strength and impermanence.
In more recent years two distinct series have emerged concurrently. The majestic Doric paintings pay homage to ancient Greece as the birthplace of Democracy and Western civilisation and have formed the basis of a touring exhibition travelling from the Benaki Museum, Athens to IVAM, Valencia, and The Hugh Lane, Dublin. More intimate in size and mood, works in the Cut Ground series draw upon an episode from the artist's own childhood and his growing dislocation with the Catholic Church.