and per se and: part XX - Celtic Head of a Man & Sean Scully

17 - 27 January 2018

and per se and  is a rolling sequence of exhibitions where one work is paired with another for two weekly periods, across a stretch of 12 months. From today a 2,000 year old carved stone head of Celtic origin will be joined by Sean’s Scully’s painting Blue Blue. On paper perhaps, the connection between these things may seem tangential, but in each other’s company this small sculpture and large painting come together in a quite surprising way. Both have a powerful presence in the room: sombre at first glance but charged with unexpected energy. The head has a seriousness that goes with its age, and yet a lightness of touch in its almost humorous expression. Blue Blue on the other hand is a solemn, physical painting built in tonal blocks of blue and grey but with hot red inching through the cracks where the colours meet: it is a classic work by Scully in this regard in which the deliberately tough stance of American abstraction is tempered by the possibility of fragility and intimacy offered by a more European tradition. Scully spans both positions. In October 2003, on the occasion of the formal unveiling of his massive stone sculpture Wall of Light at the University of Limerick, Scully gave a lecture that began with two slides projected side by side. On the left were sculptures by Giacometti, as Scully described them: “figures that stand like ragged sentinels facing time and all the elements of nature and human history that are thrown at them.  So they represent, in a sense, what remains.” And on the right was Scully’s own photograph of a hut from the Aran Islands, Inis Meáin: “It also represents, in a sense, what remains… the issue of the wall on the Aran Island is of paramount importance.  This is a hut for either staying in or keeping things in.  It has a similar stoic personality to the sculpture on the left, which is of course an artwork and therefore much more strangely expressive… Both of them in a way express a kind of loneliness.  Both of them are in a sense a testament to what remains, even though one is art and the other is not particularly art” In 2007, in our first year long series of artist pairings, we exhibited a Giacometti head alongside Scully’s Aran photographs, ten years on this current pairing rekindles that conversation and that same spirit of stoic perseverance. Like Giacometti, and the ancient walls of Aran these works are rooted in a something that stands against the prevailing wind of the present day. In short, they stand firm, and they remain.