01  Group photo of honoured guests

On the afternoon of March 12, 2015, the high-profile Follow the Heart: The Art of Sean Scully, 1964-2014, London, New York grandly opened at CAFA Art Museum, it is the second exhibition of Sean Scully’s solo exhibition in China, which was held at Shanghai Himalayas Museum before moving to Beijing, and it certainly continues to trigger a heated discussion within art circles on abstract art and Western modern and contemporary art, paying an important role in the promotion of the cultural relationship between China and the United Kingdom.

At 5:00pm, the opening ceremony of the exhibition was held in the lobby of CAFA Art Museum,Carma Elliot, Minister (Culture and Education), Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy in Beijing, Su Xinping, Vice President of CAFA, Tan Ping, Vice President of Chinese National Academy of Arts, Wu Hongliang, Director of the Art Museum of Beijing Fine Art Academy, Liu Shangying, Deputy Director of the Department of Oil Painting at the School of Plastic Arts, CAFA, the curator Philip Dodd, the artist Sean Scully, and other honoured guests attended the opening ceremony. In reflecting on the exhibition, Vice President Su Xinping considered it as an exhibition that seemed ordinary but had a profound intention, which also brought new inspiration to the newly established Abstract Studio of the Department of Oil Painting, CAFA. Wang Chunchen said the exhibition was as important as Rauschenberg’s exhibition held in the National Art Museum of China in 1985. Philip Dodd said it was an important contemporary exhibition in China, because it was a topic about how to maintain youthful art forever, as everyone knows, Sully was inspired by Matisse, Mondrian, Rothko, etc., and also injected a new lease of life into abstract art, he hoped that through this exhibition to promote communication and exchange between Chinese and Western arts.

Sean Scully is an important international post war abstract art master, has been the Turner Prize nominee at Tate London twice, in 1989 and 1993, and he has exhibited extensively throughout the world and has been collected in over 150 prominent museums and institutes around the world, Sean was praised by the late esteemed philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto as “an artist whose name belongs to the shortest of short list of major painters of our time”. For his artistic creation, Sean Scully said in the interview that, he grew up in the art movements of the 1960s and the 1970s, and he was a notoriously stubborn artist, always insisting on his own concept of creation, refusingto change his creation in order to pursue popular art but he also said that his early works were as horizontal and vertical as the drawing of computers, while the recent works were full of emotion. He also claims that he doesn’t believe in utopia, but does believe in love.

After two years preparation, with collaborations from many international museums, institutes, galleries and art professionals, Follow the Heart: The Art of Sean Scully, 1964-2014, London, New York arrived in China, featuring more than 100 works, covering oil painting, pastel, pencil drawings, photography, comprehensively showcasing Scully’s creative experience over half a century. The exhibition is divided into sections, taking the visitor through the various periods of Sean Scully’s career. There is a large-scale steel sculpture ‘China Piled Up’, made especially for the exhibition in China showcasing in the centre of the major gallery on the 3rd floor of the art museum, in addition to his representative work ‘Night and Day’, ‘Backs and Fronts’; The second gallery showcases the work made by Sean Scully in London and the US in his early years to show how he tried to develop an abstract language and the interpretation of a minimalist concept; The 4th floor is a selection of the Wall of Light paintings which preoccupied him from the mid-1990s, at the opening ceremony the artist specially introduced his creation in Barcelona, the “City of Wall”, where he had discovered the “shadows” of many historical figures on the walls, on which he created a series of oil paintings in this theme. In the last section it showcases his monumental Doric paintingsas well as his lyrical ‘Landlines’.

It is not only an exhibition that displays Scully’s abstract art, but also an opportunity for a dialogue between Chinese and Western abstract art. As a Western artist, Scully is also good at karate, studying Chinese Taoist culture, and his artistic thinking contains the Eastern philosophy, so his work itself is a bridge connecting East and West. When asked about the idea of Chinese abstract art, Scully believed that it was difficult for all arts to remove the geographical attributes, even when using the same language, they had different dialects, so the “accent” of Chinese abstract art was certainly different from the United States, but they were able to communicate with each other, which was a good thing.

The exhibition continues to April 23. During the exhibition, CAFA will organize a variety of public educational activities, such as the workshop for Sean Scully and the students, film screenings related to Sean Scully, a lecture inabstract art, etc.

Text by Zhang Wenzhi, Photo by Wei Wei/CAFA ART INFO

Translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

Related posts: