Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Book: Sean Scully, Walls of Aran

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2007 by Thames & Hudson (here). 128 Pages, with 73 images, primarily in black and white. Includes a three part essay by Colm Tóibín and an afterword by the artist. (Cover shot at right, via Thames & Hudson.)

Comments/Context: The Irish painter Sean Scully is probably best known for his earthy abstractions: checkerboards, blocks and stripes of alternating color, fit together with soft painterly edges. What is less well known is that Scully is also an accomplished photographer, and this book gathers together a series of black and white images he made of the miles of limestone walls on the remote Aran Islands, west of Galway.

While I imagine most visitors to these rugged islands take "travel" photos of the amazing walls, Scully has made images that clearly feed off his own aesthetic. The best of the pictures are those that select fragments of the intricate dry stacked walls and highlight their startling patterns: layers of flat rocks built up, interspersed with sea worn rounded stones piled in haphazard groups, mixed with flat rocks inserted vertically into the walls for stability, crackled with dark shadows. Often the images are made from a bit further back, using the sky and the grassy meadows as additional stripes of contrasting color and texture.

Of course, all of the photographs bear a striking resemblance to Scully's paintings. It is as if he has found a real place in this world that matches what he sees in his mind's eye; I can certainly imagine him wandering through these stark landscapes for days on end, following the lines and patterns of the ancient stones. This is a fine group of well made photographs, and an unexpectedly resonant book worth adding to your library.

Collector's POV: Sean Scully is represented by Galerie Lelong in New York (here) and Kerlin Gallery in Dublin (here). His photographs have not yet made any consistent appearance in the secondary markets, so no pricing pattern is readily discernible. While these images reminded me tangentially of Aaron Siskind's images of rocks on Martha's Vineyard and of Andy Goldsworthy's sculptured walls, the photographs themselves eerily echo Scully's paintings and his fascination with the interplay of line, tonality and form.

Transit Hub:
  • Walls of Aran exhibit, Kerlin Gallery, 2007 (here)
  • Wall of Light exhibit, Met, 2006 (here)
  • The Art of the Stripe, Hood, 2008 (here)
  • Interview: Journal of Contemporary Art (here)
  • Aran Islands (here)

1 comment:

HAC said...

A very rare and special limited edition "WALL OF ARAN" FIRST EDITION, FIRST IMPRESSION, HARDBACK WITH DUSTJACKET was also published for private clients, collectors and musumes. 100 copies each containing a photographic print of cover image, numbered 1-100 and signed by the artist. Scully photographic print works are very highly sought after and very rarely sell on secondary markets as so few are produced for sale.

The Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland, hold a unique place in the Irish imagination. For centuries artists and writers have travelled there to record the stark beauty of the landscape or to find inspiration in the mythic way of life.

Among them is Irish-born painter Sean Scully, who has made regular visits to the islands over a number of years. One of today's most esteemed abstract artists, he is also an accomplished photographer, his eye drawn to architectural shapes that have affinities with his painted work. For him the hundreds of ancient dry-stone walls that criss-cross Aran are much more than functional barriers on the land. They are anonymous sculptures that reflect the elemental nature of life on this windswept and rocky terrain.

This book brings together for the first time his sensitive and poetic images of the walls of Aran, revealing the unexpected yet monumental beauty of these centuries-old structures that meander across the austere and exposed landscape. In form and spirit, the photographs of the walls, with their horizontal and vertical shards of limestone, shed light on Scully's own sensibilities as an artist. They also capture the stillness and serenity of the rugged, timeless place.

Award -winning writer Irish Colm Tobin has visited Aran many times over several decades. His evocative text accompanying Scully's photographs conveys the islands' mystery and beauty, and considers some of the literary precursors who have made Aran the subject of their work. An account by Scully of his own experience of the islands completes this book.

I have a copy of the above Art Work available for sale. Never opened, still in dustjacket and sealed in original placstic wrap.