CARAVAN's Founding President, Paul-Gordon Chandler, is providing a series of reflections on works of art along the themes of “Inspiring, Transcendent, Contemplative, Enriching, and Imaginative.” Below he focuses on “Contemplative Art.”
Sean Scully, Landline Star, 2017, Oil on aluminum, 215.9 x 190.5cm
(This work was exhibited at Sea Star: Sean Scully at the National Gallery, 13 April – 11 August 2019)
One of the most profound “sacred” spaces that I have visited is at The Philips Collection in Washington, D.C. to what is often referred to as the “little Rothko Chapel.” It is an intimate room holding four paintings of the late Latvian-born American abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, who is best known for his color-field paintings that depict irregular rectangular sections of color. Sitting in this small room, surrounded on all sides by those four paintings is a profoundly contemplative spiritual experience. Rothko said about his work; “The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when painting them.” You can read about this special “sacred” space at: www.phillipscollection.org/curation/rothko-room. There is a magnificent exhibition of more than 100 of Mark Rothko’s works currently running in Paris at the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
Similarly, the celebrated contemporary Irish-born abstractionist painter Sean Scully’s work leads me into another, a deeper, dimension. His paintings have a calming and centering affect, and open the door to journey into the transcendent, similar to the affect Marc Rothko’s work has on me.
About his work, Scully says, “I’m interested in art that addresses itself to our highest aspirations… Abstraction is the art of our age… it’s a breaking down of certain structures, an opening up… Abstract art has the possibility of being incredibly generous, really out there for everybody. It’s a non-denominational religious art. I think it’s the spiritual art of our time.”
I find there to be an inherent spirituality in Scully’s paintings, evoking a universal embrace of the Sacred. Reflecting on his work, Scully says, "My work is concerned with spirituality and with a belief that human beings are sacred – I think we all are… For me it’s bound up with something more universal rather than belief or non-belief… It’s about the spirituality for me; I’m not promoting a brand. I'm basically against anything that is exclusionary.”
To learn more about Sean Scully, visit the website of his art chapel near Barcelona: www.santaceciliamontserrat.com
Also, here are two inspiring articles about his art chapel: