Sean Scully is one of the most important and celebrated painters of our age. For half a century, he has explored with unwavering determination the possibilities of the stripe, band, and block as abstract forms. With seemingly limitless invention, he has reconciled the aesthetic of pure minimalism with a more human and expressive approach in a quest to make meaning and content the central preoccupation of painting. In his words, he makes ‘abstract painting metaphorical, physical, sensual, emotional, and, above all, relational’. In the process, he has revealed how something so simple – a mark on a surface – can communicate so much feeling and lived experience. As Scully himself has remarked, the stripe is particularly receptive to interpretation, and from the very beginning his work has received the attention of commentators who have been drawn by its seductive sensuality and constant inventiveness.
This book collates the writings of some fifty international critics, curators, philosophers, and historians who have sought, from their own vantage points, to chart the unique and single-minded course that Scully followed in the first three decades of his career. Reflecting the astonishing variety of his compositions, each one identifies novel and different aspects in the work and discovers something new and fresh to say as it develops in unexpected and intriguing ways. Lavishly illustrated with all of Scully’s major paintings from the late 1960s to 1999, and with dozens of installation views, behind-the-scenes studio shots, and portraits of the artist, many published here for the first time, this collection provides a concise and accessible account of the work of a painter who more than any other has demonstrated the poetic qualities of abstraction.