Sean Scully has studios in Germany, New York, London and Barcelona, at least. After an intense period of painting he feels nervous, strung out and emptied. He goes walking in the mountains to replenish. (1)
“Art is a little like the donkey and the carrot and the artist never reaches the carrot .. haha .. you never get to nirvana ... it’s not possible because your concept, your ambition, is always greater than what you’re able to achieve ...
[...] It should be something that is happening all at once ... that’s inhabiting you and that you are doing ... and you have one way or another managed to get yourself into that space ... and there’s an angel on your shoulder. That’s how you should make art. If you’re plotting art ... and trying to make something to get something, you’re not in a state of creative innocence – you’re not making art, it’s something else.” (2).
These are snippets from two terrific videos I watched over the last few days. The first is a conversation in 2004 in front of a studio audience at the Tate, while the second was made in 2011 and includes some footage of Scully at work as well as glimpses of the spectacular landscape around his studio in Germany.
He is evidently generous with his time as there are numerous published interviews to be found around the internet as well. And he rarely repeats himself, which means there’s always something new to discover. I get the feeling he doesn't think much of artists who delegate the actual painting:
“I’m not a pimp artist. I make all my work myself.” (1)
He mentions that when many oil paintings are drying together, the air can become toxic and he needs to leave for a while.
“We like to think we are what we are. But we are tremendously defined by context. We’re in a relationship with the world.” (1)
“You learn a lot when someone writes on your work” (referring to critical reviews).
“A painting is a compression where everything is made, thought, felt at the same time – a monumental moment.” (1)
And to wind up, an authentic statement of his aim: “The enterprise [painting] has a sense of the absurd about it. I don’t think about risk. I’m trying to make something that moves me even if it’s like something else already made.” (c. 45 minutes in the Tate video).
(1) The Tate video: Sean Scully conversation with Tim Marlow
(2) The Guardian video: Sean Scully in his studio in Germany