The first Polish exhibition of Sean Scully’s (b. 1945 in Dublin) paintings and sculpture is a retrospective at the same time; the show takes up 2,000 square metres, including CoCA’s seven-metre-high Column Hall – one of his biggest exhibitions to date.
50 large-format oil and acrylic paintings on canvas or aluminium will be on view, dating from various periods in the artist’s work (from 1973 to 2021), and 24 works on paper. This will be a regular retrospective, allowing viewers to trace different themes and stylistic transformations in Scully’s oeuvre. The core of the exhibition are 12 monumental paintings from the Doric series, created in 1990-2020. Displayed together as a complete cycle for the first time, the set constitutes the painter’s tribute to the Doric order (his ‘Doric’ pieces were first presented in Athens in 2012). These monumental paintings will be appropriately shown in the monumental Column Hall, casually referred to as the “church.” The artist believes, and so do we as organisers, that this space will best reflect the mystical and sacral character of the cycle. The Doric series will fill the 1,000-square-metre hall, while its middle section, between the columns, will hold Scully’s large-format multicoloured sculpture.
When discussing the content of the exhibition, it should be noted that, consistent with the artist’s wish, one of the paintings on display will be enriching the CoCA Collection. Wall Landline Irena was painted in 2021 to celebrate the memory of Irena Gut, a Polish woman who suffered a cruel fate in World War II – first at the hands of the Soviets, and then the Germans. She saved twelve Jews from certain death. The story of her life is a shocking synthesis of the history of Eastern European nations during and after the war. Irena Opdyke, née Gut, was born in the town of Kozienice in 1922. In 1949 she emigrated to the United States and remained until her death in California in 2003. In 1999, she wrote down her recollections, which served as the basis for a play. Her tragic story and heroism have left a profound impression on Sean Scully who decided to honour her by painting a picture dedicated to her and offering it as a gift to a Polish institution, the Centre of Contemporary Art.