Sean Scully

White Window


Not on display

Sean Scully born 1945
Oil paint on canvas
Displayed: 2455 × 3725 × 115 mm
Purchased 1989

Display caption

White Window is one of Scully’s largest works. He has described its dynamic, deliberately unresolved composition as a work of ‘uncensored emotion’. The dark stripes, painted in various widths, push oppressively against each other. Their thick brushwork contrasts with the lighter, more energetic handling of the ‘window’, an inserted white panel that literally opens up the composition. The clearly-defined lines of the window also provide a contrast with the wavering edges of the horizontal and vertical stripes.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Technique and condition

The work is comprised of three main sections, each a deep wooden framework, over the face and sides of which have been stretched a heavy linen canvas. The framework of the largest section has been modified to accept a small insert (fourth) canvassed framework. The strainers were made in New York.

The four canvases were given a mid toned grey/brown priming layer. The general tonality of this priming was then lowered on the smallest inset canvas with a relatively thin application of black paint which also served to delineate the edges of the intended horizontal 'plank' shapes. These forms were then built up in thickly and vigorously brushed paint, within the black delineations, starting with a dark mushroom colour and working up the paint with a broken layer of light stone colour. The thickly applied oil paint was enriched by the addition of Winsor & Newton's artists' liquid medium, Liquin.

The three large canvases have blue/black delineation of the shapes with a bright duck egg blue underpainting of the shape areas. Subsequent painting is again very heavily brushmarked but on these canvases the counterposed bands of subdued colour are achieved using a rich black alongside the bands of mid toned warm grey. These late applications are brushed up to the margins indicated in the underpainting, and small flickering glimpses of the bright underpainting are allowed to remain visible at the band edges. The later layers are made with stand oil, Winton Painting Medium, and a small amount of dammar varnish.

Roy Perry

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