Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction


Sean Scully
B. 1945
titled on the reverse of the left hand panel; signed and dated 1999 on the reverse of the right hand panel
oil on linen, in 2 parts
overall: 244 by 274 cm. 96 by 108 in.
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Galeria Carles Taché, Barcelona

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2000


Barcelona, Galeria Carles Taché, Sean Scully, 2000, n.p., no. 8, illustrated in colour 


Exh. Cat., Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Sean Scully: Gemälde, Pastelle, Aquarelle, Fotografien 1990-2000, March - June 2001, p. 160, no. 46, illustrated in colour

Kelly Grovier and Leina González, Sean Scully: Bricklayer of the Soul, Reflections in Celebration, Ostfildern 2015, p. 134, illustrated in colour 

Catalogue Note

With its complex imbrication of glossily painted horizontal bars, Between Two Lights is a beautiful example from the Wall of Lights series that has been Sean Scully's abiding concern since it was begun in the late 1990s. Using a five inch brush and oil paints thickened with varnish, Scully builds up his compositions piecemeal, applying multiple layers of paint to emphasise the presence of the artist's hand. With its light-stone coloured bands set against thick, inky blues, Between Two Lights is remarkable for its contrasting hues. Building layer upon layer, the feathered edges of his 'bricks' and the spaces between them create fascinating, highly complex structures. It is these joins, like the fault lines between tectonic plates, where friction between different coloured forms ignites the composition. Like light seeping through the cracks in a wall, previous layers of pigment are glimpsed through successive films, archeologically revealing the history of the painting's creation. Compositionally, the work evokes the architectural structure of its title, reminding us of dry stone walls, post-and-lintel construction and even the megalithic structures of Dolmen and Stonehenge. Yet as the contradiction inherent in the series title implies, these solid structures are dematerialised by Scully's use of colour, so that in density there is light and in etherealness there is weight.

More than any artist of his generation, Scully combines the formal traditions of European painting – the brooding tones of Velázquez and Manet and the spectacular colours and brushwork of Van Gogh and Matisse – with a distinctly American abstract tradition, epitomised in particular by Rothko and Pollock. Born in Ireland, he studied in London but sought out the great masters of Abstract Expressionism in New York where he settled from 1975 onwards. Seeing the heroic post-war painting as his direct heritage, it is with Rothko in particular that he shares a special affinity. In Rothko, light combines with darkness and a moody, melancholic drama, and this is the cornerstone of Scully's appreciation of his forefather. He says of his predecessor's work: "The sky and the sea, as well as all the experiences the artist has lived and all the stories he would like to tell are distilled into rectangles that have the solemnity of Stonehenge" (Sean Scully cited in: Michael Auping, 'No Longer a Wall', in: Exh. Cat., Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, Sean Scully: Wall of Light, 2005-06, p. 24). Like Rothko, Scully has evolved his own abstract language of rectangular brick-like forms that fit closely together and are characterised by broad brushstrokes. By paring down his means to pure colour and surface texture, he seeks to tease out life's vicissitudes from the depths of colour, brushstroke and light that he painstakingly builds layer upon layer into his work. Manifesting a complete adherence to the principal tenets of abstraction, in Between Two Lights Scully lyrically conveys its emotional power, its storytelling potential and above all its capacity to convey light.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction