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signed and dated 'Sean Scully 4.18.04' (lower right)
pastel on paper
103 x 152 cm. (40 ½ x 59 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2004
Galerie Lelong, Paris, France.
Collection Bankhaus Oppenheim, Cologne, Germany.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004.
Paris, Galerie Lelong, Sean Scully. Winter Robe, 2004.
Special notice

This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When auctioned, such property will remain under “bond” with the applicable import customs duties and taxes being deferred unless and until the property is brought into free circulation in the PRC. Prospective buyers are reminded that after paying for such lots in full and cleared funds, if they wish to import the lots into the PRC, they will be responsible for and will have to pay the applicable import customs duties and taxes. The rates of import customs duty and tax are based on the value of the goods and the relevant customs regulations and classifications in force at the time of import.

Lot Essay

In Sean Scully’s 04.18.04 , panels of warm cream, deep blue and earthy maroon coalesce with charcoal greys and dusky blacks, forming interwoven layers of colour that radiate light and energy. Relating to the artist’s seminal ‘Wall of Light’ series, the work epitomizes Scully’s use of abstraction and materiality to explore the emotive effects of architectural structure. Donald Kuspit writes that ‘If there is such a thing as an “advance” in transcendental abstraction, which began, in different forms, with Kandinsky’s gesturalism and Malevich’s geometry, and has been said to climax in Newman and Rothko, then Scully’s paintings, simultaneously gestural and geometrical, are the advance’ (D. Kuspit,‘Sacred Sadness’, in Sean Scully: A Retrospective , New York 2007, p. 18)

The ongoing ‘Wall of Light’ series was inspired by a trip in Mexico during the early 1980s, when Scully, enchanted by the local architecture and Mayan ruins of the Yucatan, saw an opportunity to explore the representation of solid and void, light and dark. Spanning decades, locales, and media, this series crystallises the full spectrum of Scully’s formal and chromatic language. In 04.18.04 , the ‘bricks’ – as Scully describes his painterly rectangles – do not quite touch one another, allowing for glimpses of the pigment underneath to show through and resemble juxtaposed building blocks. This architectural approach to form captivated many of Scully’s predecessors: from Josef Albers – also inspired by the ruins of Mexico, to Ad Reinhardt to Donald Judd. His multiple layers of colour thus form part of an ongoing art-historical narrative that continues to explore sensibilities of space, hue, and their relation to the human experience.

Further contributing to the work’s interplay of material and space is Scully’s choice of pastel as a medium. Scully transforms the paper’s surface by gradually building up layers of pastel, producing a remarkable tension between the perceived density of the colour and the frailty of the material. Discussing pastel works, Scully acknowledges the very physical act they require. ‘Pastel is like putting make up on’, he explains. ‘There is a dust on the paper, which I rub in. I push it right into the paper with a piece of cloth or paper. Once it’s embedded into the surface, I fix it. And then I work it up, adding a layer, fixing it, adding another layer, fixing it again, and so on until the pastel starts to stand up a little from the paper. At a certain point, if you keep pushing, you start taking it off. So you have to give in’ (S. Scully, quoted in M. Poirier, Sean Scully , New York 1990, p. 143). Scully’s shapes take on an ethereal yet tactile quality. Animated both on the surface and in the work’s multi-coloured depth, their delicacy and fragility threatens to dissolve the solid, rectangular ‘bricks’. Despite his flat apparatus, Scully capitalises upon colour, medium, and shape to create an artwork that comes to life both kinaesthetically and emotionally.

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