Sean Scully: Walls of Aran

By SEAN SCULLY

Many Americans familiar with ?Aran? sweaters are unaware that these abstract cableknit designs originated from an archipelago of the same name off the West Coast of Ireland. Their staggering landscapes of perilous cliffs, cobbled shores and vast sky famously renders visitors awestruck — particularly the painters and writers who have sought inspiration there since the 1800s. Sean Scully, the contemporary Irish painter, is one of the artistic pilgrims who became entranced by the indigenous stonemasonry. His new photo-essay collaboration, Walls of Aran intrigues both for the inherent beauty of his well-composed images, and because these vistas further illuminate his own experiments with abstract patterns. Aran walls exude a Gaelic personality and aesthetic distinct from those anywhere else: On these islands, the karst limestone rocks will proceed horizontally and then–inexplicably, irreverently, exuberantly–vertically, as if a barmy librarian started shelving books at unhinged whim. A wall from Inis Me in exhibits the most extravagantly lacey, jazzy and jumbled logic. With daylight visible through the mortarless chinks, it appears to be a feat of mythic engineering. Though unknowns built these walls over the centuries, their creations dazzle with as much sophistication as any Andy Goldsworthy land art. Through Scully’s viewfinder, the armchair tourist can vicariously experience the eye-opening magic that Scully sees in the ?walls that walk everywhere. Strolling into squares of oddness and rectangles that lurch in song with the lay of the land.? -

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