Crate of Air, 2018. ©Sean-Scully. Courtesy the artist and YSP (Yorkshire Sculpture Park). Photo © Jonty-Wilde
The exhibition Smaller Than The Sky will showcase Scully’s outdoor sculptures alongside works in other media. Scully's powerful paintings will be displayed among the ornate interiors of the house, with a selection of work on paper and key works that reference earlier stages in his career, hung in the North Colonade and Contemporary Gallery.
Sculptures include monumental, open structures in steel, such as Crate of Air, and a new work: Wall of Light, constructed from locally sourced limestone that sit purposefully within the English landscape. The new work encompassed by the exhibition include stacks made of sandstone, wood, glass and marble. There will also be small-scale maquettes showing the artist's development process.
Glass Stack (detail), 2020. ©Sean-Scully
Sean Scully’s concern for the environment and his focus on nature is reflected in the title of the exhibition. An important component is his book, Endangered Sky, a collaboration with the poet Kelly Grovier, focusing on the plight of bird life, memorializing those already extinct and those which are close to it, which will be launched at Houghton and will be shown in vitrines as part of the exhibition. Sean Scully says:
"England, as we’ve seen from the fabulous paintings by Constable, is a country very informed by sky. People talk about the sky all the time. They talk about the weather, or the clouds, the wet. So, it’s a source of inspiration. When you put sculptures outside, you are aware that the sky is illuminating them, and conditioning how they look. Whatever you put out there is always humbled by the bigness of the sky."
Aix Wall 2, 2021 ©Sean-Scully
Born in Dublin, Ireland, grew up in the UK, studying in Newcastle, Sean Scully came to prominence primarily as a painter in the early 1970s when he moved to New York, evolving his own distinctive form of abstraction. He has based himself in the US ever since. Initially attracted by the geometric purity of minimalism, he developed a more muscular, expressive form of abstract painting, that have a totemic visual presence. Scully has gained a well-deserved reputation internationally through these imposing canvases that comprise coloured bars and horizontal beams, some with inset or relief elements.
Celebrated for his watercolours, drawings, pastels and prints, as well as for his photographs, Scully is increasingly known for sculpture produced over the past two decades. The monumental Opulent Ascension, installed at San Giorgio Maggiore for the 2019 Venice Biennale, drew critical acclaim as well as more than 360,000 visitors. More recently, Oak Stacks was created from historic local Danish timber to stand in Bertel Thorvaldsen's Square, Copenhagen when it was designated the city 2023 World Capital of Architecture. Scully exhibits internationally, and his work is in by many national museum and gallery collections, including Tate, as well as numerous private collections world wide.
Wall Landline Uranus, 2022 ©Sean-Scully
Smaller Than The Sky has been curated by art historian and museum director, Sean Rainbird, former Director of the National Gallery of Ireland 2012-2022 and Senior Curator at Tate. The exhibition has been organised by the Houghton Arts Foundation with the support of Lisson Gallery – (London, New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Beijing), and Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery – (London, Paris, Salzburg and Seoul), and key assistance from the artist and his studio. A fully illustrated catalogue will be available for sale for visitors to the exhibition, written by Sean Rainbird.
About the author
Paul Barratt started working in contemporary art galleries in 1989, having graduated in Fine Art from Goldmsith’s, London University. He initially worked at Anthony d’Offay Gallery, one of the contemporary art dealers, who dominated the London art market in the 80s and 90s. He was approached by the Lisson Gallery to be gallery manager for the influential art dealer Nicholas Logsdail. This was followed by a short period in New York at Gladstone Gallery, to work for visionary art dealer Barbara Gladstone, working with the artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney.
On his return to London, Paul secured a place on the postgraduate curatorial course at the Royal College of Art, to complete an MA. After graduation in 2001, he worked as an independent curator on several projects in Oslo, London, Brighton and Basel, before joining Paul Vater at his design agency Sugarfree in 2004. He has worked with Paul ever since.