Staring at art from the Tate's collection and thinking about it

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

#8 - Sean Scully

Sean Scully, #8, 1992, aquatint on paper, 116 x 174mm, Tate.

The final work in Scully's Heart of Darkness series.  Here the horizontal and vertical lines evoking land meeting water and the flow of currents return, and we get a sense of departure as the narrative comes to a close and we leave Kurtz and the Heart of Darkness of the Congo.
   So what has been achieved by this reading of abstract images in the context of a Wikipedia summary of the plot of Conrad's novel?  On the one hand, I think it's been rewarding.  I'd say the links between the story and the images I found weren't totally insane. (Or were they?  An interesting thought experiment I'd like to carry out in regards to this series is to get an abstract series of works by Mondrian or somebody, tell a test subject they relate to the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, and see what links they come up with.  Would their reading be more or less convincing than mine regarding this series?)  It has also taken my appreciation of Scully's work beyond 'it all looks like Licorice Allsorts'.  There's a starkness in the contrasts he uses that stops me from viewing it as I once did, as being pleasantly decorative but little else. 
   On the other hand, by concentrating on finding the narrative in the images, I haven't got very far in finding a means, accessible to the lay(wo)man, of discussing the formal aspects (shapes, colour, balance etc.) of abstract work that is much more than just saying what I see.  Maybe I'm not the person to do it.  As an author, I'm generally going to be more interested in questions of what/where/who are we looking at over how does the yellow counteract the green or whatever.  Oh, I dunno.  We'll get there.

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