About Sean Scully: Inside Outside

YSP presents Sean Scully: Inside Outside, the largest-ever presentation of sculptures and first exhibition of sculpture and painting in the UK by the Irish-born artist.

Exploring concepts of landscape and abstraction with human experience, the exhibition unites sculpture with important recent paintings on aluminium, together with works on paper. Drawing out ideas pertinent to the singularity of YSP and its landscape, this is a poetic, robust experience that embraces the Park’s topography and Scully’s exceptional vigour, as well as his belief that in life and art there is perpetual discovery.

The exhibition presents an artist at the height of his powers. Aged 72, it is evident that there is no curtailment of Scully’s energy, drive and vision. Keenly aware of the labour that dominated the lives of his mining family, Scully’s practice is one of great rigour and toil, his output prodigious. For YSP he has made new paintings and sculpture – resolutely contemporary works that will integrate an inclination towards geometry with the romantic sincerity of landscape painting in the historical tradition.

Scully has been working in steel and stone to make powerful structures that both assert and subvert their materiality. The monumental Wall Dale Cubed (2018) in Lower Park is the latest sculpture that relates to a series of paintings that Scully began in the 1990s. This new sculpture made for YSP uses 1,000 tonnes of Yorkshire stone from a local quarry and was constructed over many weeks. Referencing ancient dry stone walls, such as those commonly found in Yorkshire, Mexico, Egypt and especially those of the Irish Aran Islands, which Scully has intensively photographed, this colossal work is built in the same way throughout, so that ‘when looking at the outside of the block, one can feel the inside without being able to see it’. In contrast, the Corten steel Crate of Air (2018) in the Country Park investigates fragmented space or ‘boxes of air’ that form their own frames to the landscape beyond.

The angular shapes Scully uses in this sculpture resonate with his paintings and is made up of individual sections that form relationships once pieced together. Sited in YSP’s historic landscape, these vast metallic and stone sculptures demand a physical trek across the landscape that is extended further uphill through the former hunting ground of the Bretton Estate to Longside Gallery. The experience of walking between the sculptures and gallery thereby matching the energy and physicality of the exhibition.

In Longside Gallery, Scully’s exceptional painting Blue Note (2016) occupies the principle wall, grounding the entire installation with a series of six alternately coloured and striped aluminium panels. Blue Note is a summation of themes Scully has been rehearsing for many years; a lodestar to his practice. Especially for YSP, and in response to the Yorkshire landscape, Scully has developed further Landline paintings, a series begun in 1999 in which he references liminal spaces – where land meets sky, sea, river, wall – with almost all vertical forms removed to create, “a side-to-side motion”.

Other sculptures inside and outside the gallery are formed from Yorkshire stone and rusted Corten steel, bronze, as well as painted aluminium. Relating again to horizontally striped paintings, they are arrangements of stacked elements, such as square steel frames and circular coins, placed one on top of the other. Constantin Brancusi is an obvious precursor, but in the most elemental sense these works recall a child stacking pebble on pebble, block on block, to form one of the most basic sculptural forms. In Scully’s hands these stacked works are a muscular extension of vertical paintings and, as in much of Scully’s work, the biographical.

Alongside paintings and sculpture in the gallery are selected works on paper together with drawings related to sculpture, and a limited-edition print accompanies the exhibition.

'I have spent my life making the melancholic into something irresistible. Because the world has changed around me and become more regretful, my paintings have become more true.' - Sean Scully