Details & Cataloguing

The Robert Devereux Collection of Post-War British Art in aid of the African Arts Trust, Sale 1


Sean Scully
signed and dated 05 on an artist's label attached to the stretcher
oil on linen
114 by 140cm.; 45 by 55in.
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Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, where acquired by the present owner in June 2005


Edinburgh, Ingleby Gallery, Sean Scully, 26th May - 23rd July 2005.

Catalogue Note

'These places in the Yucatan were cities, now you see a wall, what remains, a wall transformed by light, the walls change colour, from pink to blue to red. I would get up early, the shadows completely transform the ruined architecture, they make it seem hopeful one moment, tragic another...'
Sean Scully, quoted in David Carrier, Sean Scully, Thames & Hudson, London, 2004, p.25.

The genesis for Scully's on-going Wall of Light series was a trip to Mexico in 1983. He visited the ancient Mayan architectural ruins of the remote Yucatan region and was instantly captivated by the multifarious and dynamic effects of light refracting off the area's crumbling stone walls. The experience triggered his very first foray into the watercolour medium with works such as Mexico Zacula 12.83 (1983, Private Collection) and Wall of Light 4.84 (1984, Private Collection). He explained, 'I made this little watercolour with all these little zones in the work, reflecting the possibility of different times of day, and the way stone structure can be brought to life with light...' (Scully, 2005, quoted in Florence Ingleby (ed.), Sean Scully, Resistance and Persistence: Selected Writings, Merrell, London 2006, p.177).

It was not until 14 years later that these new experiences and revelations in watercolour were to manifest themselves in oil. Indeed, it was only after finishing his 1997 masterpiece Because of the Other (Private Collection) that, 'I realized it was like a Wall of Light watercolour that I had made in Mexico in 1983. Because of the Other was made in 1997 and this says something about my whole endeavour. Clearly there is something wrong with a person who forgets to do something for fourteen years... however, things have to be made at the right time...' (Scully, ibid., p.176); the 'right time' was in 1998 when Scully painted his first Wall of Light in oil and began what has become his most well known series that now consists of over 200 works.  

In contrast to the minimalist formalism of his 'tape and spray' works from the 1970s, the vertical emphasis of 80s abstracts such as Araby (1981, Private Collection) and Red and Red (1986, Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.) and the monochromatic intensity of works from the 90s such as Durango (Kunstsammlung Nordheim-Westfalen, Dusseldorf), the Wall of Light paintings pulsate with colour and demonstrate a much freer and seemingly more spontaneous handling. The present work is no exception and has a particularly vibrant energy with dominant orange, green and red tones that reverberate across the composition. Held together by a grid-like matrix of what Scully has called 'bricks', Wall of Light Orange Green is also enlivened by a complex layering of colour with background tones that gradually emerge between each 'brick' adding a subtle and rhythmic movement within the composition.

Although the original source of inspiration for the Wall of Light series is Mexico, each work captures a different personal experience dependent upon time and place. The luminous tones of the present work certainly hint at the warm glow of a summer sunset and offer a direct contrast for example to the darker, shadowy hues of Wall of Light Desert Night (1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) which was inspired by a night drive through the Nevada desert. In each case, by recalling each unique experience from his creative subconscious, the works are then created in one of his studios, be it New York, Barcelona, London or Munich; as the artist explains himself, 'this is something I do a lot. I see something, and have a feeling of something – it might be the light, or the heat, they are very specific in that sense – and I unload the painting...' (Scully, ibid., p.179).


The Robert Devereux Collection of Post-War British Art in aid of the African Arts Trust, Sale 1