When I was in Barcelona last month my sister, her girlfriend and I went to the Joan Miro Museum where a Sean Scully exhibition was showing. I'd bought a print of the painting below for David's birthday last year and was really delighted to see it in 'real' life!
Wall of Light Light by Sean Scully
The painting is huge (108 x 120 inches) and although I'd admired the print I wasn't prepared for the hypnotic, absorbing presence the painting would have.
I'd been thinking about making a patchwork inspired by the painting for a while and I've finally made a preliminary sketch. I wanted to learn from Scully's use of light and colour, but I doubt he's thought of giving patchwork workshops(!), so examining the painting by copying it is the next best thing.
This is what I've learned so far:
Within the painting there are tiny changes in the size and scale of each segment that I didn't even notice until I came to draw a pattern up, which are essential to the creation of movement. For ease I made my piece more uniform but it's lost a sense of flow in the process, for example, the slightly taller cream and brown segment on the bottom left in the original pushes into the space above and the blue and orange pieces in the top left corner flow across into the next segment.
Although the painting has a uniform feel, there's a huge range of tones and shades within each band. There's a depth that's absent from my version; the light is not bright enough, the dark not deep enough; my tones are too similar. His really does glow like a stained glass window but there's a flatness about mine which deadens the design, takes the life away. So I think I need each colour made up of lots of smaller pieces, each slightly varying in texture and tone. Or maybe working onto the top of the patchwork with embroidery and embellishments.
These aren't colours I would usually choose to work with, they're far more muted and neutral. I am pretty far out of my comfort zone with these shades but I find his piece is bright and glows without using the bright, highly saturated colours I usually rely on.
Because of the obvious brush strokes in Scully's work his piece seems full of energy and life. I'd like to add much more texture to mine, I feel it should be more heavy and gnarled; it's too uniformly smooth.
And I want to scale it up massively, the huge scale lends Scully's work an impact. If its small it's somehow just a nice, pretty picture. The immense scale gives it a presence and power and fills your field of vision so you become totally absorbed. I want mine to be bigger, not by using more pieces but bigger pieces made up of lots of subtly varying colours and textures.
In the long term I don't want a pale imitation of Scully's work and if I follow it too precisely it can only ever be this. But if I study this piece I can use the knowledge I've gained to create something new.
I would love to tell you more about Sean Scully but when I got home I found out that the English exhibition catalogue I bought is in fact written in Spanish. You can find out more about him here and here