Sean Scully – most romantic

When Joseph Beuys said that art is about showing his wounds, it is much easier to understand in his oeuvre than in the abstract, painted blocks of a Sean Scully.Sean Scully – an outsider and that from the beginning. Born in Ireland, he grew up in London in the 1960s. A youth marked by poverty and violence. Among other things, he tells of having earned his living by betting on billiards – a person who has a rich repertoire of bizarre anecdotes to offer.

In painting, he very quickly finds a language that reflects but does not condemn him. He condemns himself: When he tries to prevent delicate and carefully palpated surfaces, transparent and soft areas, flowing transitions and touches of two colours, with ever coarser means. It is as if he overemphasizes all the softness and vulnerability. But as if in an aged parking lot, life finds its way to the surface. At every crack, behind every little crack, life pulsates, the will to be recognized and loved.

Sean Scully is the never tired bricklayer, who tries to close his walls with Celtic and stoic perseverance. In doing so, he always remains the lonely child who, behind the wall that is supposed to protect him, remains separated from the world and love.

It is almost tragic that his “brick-like”, heavy oil paintings are the strongest works of his oeuvre. Exactly where the tragedy of his personality reveals itself in the most intense way, this authenticity reveals his great importance as a contemporary painter.

At first it looked like a smooth career. At a very early stage he was recognized and supported by art critics. He married and had a son. When he died in a motorcycle accident, it was as if his inner pain, which he had felt all his life, took over – like a bad description of fate in a cheap novel.

Even at this point, he can no longer gain anything from the art world. Sean Scully is always one step too late in his career. Before he could recover in the praise and homage of art historians, curators, and collectors, he has seen their true, hollow, and narcissistic faces too clearly.

And so, with a mocking smile, he takes note of his own growth and career in our contemporary art world.

Sean Scully is a deeply romantic painter. His paintings are not spiritualized abstractions of bold theories. They are the result of a fundamentally honest and clear application of colour, an immediate ductus and the sum of an extremely sensitive perception of colour. With every first brushstroke of a painting he opens up an inner wound. With every further layer he tries to heal it or at least close it, always wondering why it still hurts inside. The famous Irish author Seamus Heaney writes that the end of art is peace. And here we come full circle to Joseph Beuys: In the awareness of his wounds lies the beginning of healing. The healing of wounds is the beginning of peace.

Nine years ago Sean Scully became a father again. I wish him that this will give him the strength to let down his walls and heal his wounds through forgiveness. I would be very curious to see how this would affect his painting.

Tobias Vetter