Sean Scully


Exhibition view Géographies at Passerelle Centre for Contemporary Art of National Interest, Brest

Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain is presenting the first solo exhibition by Sean Scully (1945, Ireland) in Brittany. A key abstractionist since the 1970s, he developed a style of painting that went against the grain of the minimal and conceptual art that was in vogue at the time. Freedom and emotion are his watchwords and infuse his entire art. Scully’s great strength is to succeed in projecting viewers somewhere into a world of feelings.

His work is a plunge, a striking experience, an alternative to reality; human beings, even if they are not represented, are at the heart of his paintings, emblematic constructions of grids and bands of colour.

Eleuthera, 2016-2017

Sean Scully is not one of those travelling artists who constantly flits from city to city, region to region, consuming environments. He’s one of those who stays, who takes time, who lets landscapes and moods gradually blend into his painting. The exhibition «Géographies», presented at Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, takes a fresh look at Sean Scully’s immense oeuvre. It looks at the places he has lived and the affections he has developed for particular places.

Doric Europa, 2012

Série Ghost, 2016-2018

Great Britain, where he was raised and began working as a typographer from the age of 15 before studying art, was the scene of his first experiments with the grid motif, greatly inspired by a formative sojourn in Morocco. Ireland, his native land, is evoked through literature, while the United States, where he settled in the 1970s, is a place where Scully very recently tackled a social issue with the Ghost series of paintings. The artist denounces the proliferation of firearms and the constant recourse to violence. The light and Mayan cultural sites of Mexico, which he discovered in the 1980s, has had a lasting influence on his painting. So too has the philosophical rigor of Germany where he has teaching as a professor at the Academy in Munich 2002-2007, and the light and history of art in Spain where he also had a studio for many years. A more recent figurative body of work tells the story of his family, including that of his son, on the island of Eleuthera. Finally, France, a country that Scully cherishes, is evoked in particular through its history of art and its landscapes.

Ghost Night, 2018, Ghost Gun, 2016

Sean Scully’s work is in the collection of virtually every major museum around the world. In 2014, he became the only Western artist to have had a career-length retrospective exhibition in China. This led to his being awarded the International Artist of the Year Prize in Hong Kong in 2018.

2018-2019 also saw important solo exhibitions such as Landline at The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., which toured to the Wadsworth Atheneum, Connecticut, USA; Landline and other works at the De Pont Museum in the Netherlands; a retrospective titled Vita Duplex at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Germany; Sea Star at The National Gallery, London, and the first major exhibition of Sean Scully’s sculptures at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK. Eleuthera, Sean Scully’s new figurative paintings, were given a solo exhibition at The Albertina, Vienna; the retrospective Long Light opened at the Villa and Collection Panza, Varese, Italy; and HUMAN, an exhibition of new paintings and sculpture was shown at San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, Italy, for the 58th Venice Art Biennale.In 2020 the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest opened Passenger, a major retrospective and his first exhibition in Central Europe, which travelled to the Benaki Museum, Athens and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia.

Exhibition view Géographies at Passerelle Centre for Contemporary Art of National Interest, Brest
All images are courtesy of the artist and Passerelle d’art contemporain, Brest. Photos: Aurélien Mole

2022 was marked by the major fifty-year career retrospective Sean Scully: The Shape of Ideas at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in the USA, alongside four further retrospective exhibitions at the Langen Foundation, Neuss, Germany; the Centre of Contemporary Art Znacki Czazu, Toruń, Poland; MAMbo Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Bologna, Italy; and the Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Sean Scully

Passerelle Centre for Contemporary Art of National Interest, Brest
October 20, 2023 — January 13, 2024