Scully was born in Dublin in 1945 and grew up in the south of London, where his family moved in 1949. He is known for rich, painterly abstractions in which stripes or blocks of layered color are a prevailing motif. The delineated geometry of his work, achieved through the use of repetitive forms such as squares, rectangles, and bands, provides structure for an expressive, physical rendering of color, light, and texture. Though these abstract compositions are not conventional landscapes, his sense of shape and light appeals to a universal understanding and is influenced by the three places he knows best: Ireland, his birthplace and homeland; north London, where he grew up; and New York, where today he mainly lives and works.
"Paint strokes do a number of things, but they do not simply describe the form in my work: they affirm the human spirit, the involvement of the human spirit." —Sean Scully
The stripe has been central to Scully’s work over the course of his career. The artist has transformed the motif of the stripe into an expressive art form, employing colour contrasts and juxtapositions, that creates diverse and emotive compositions with a powerful physical presence. The architectonic structure of Scully’s work derived from twentieth-century artist Mondrian, however, from the beginning of his career, Scully was interested in the work of the Abstract Expressionists, particularly Mark Rothko. Like the Russian artist, Scully’s colour combinations are emotionally charged and illustrate the innate spirituality that is present throughout Scully’s oeuvre.