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  • Writer's pictureHaydn Dickenson

IN MEMORIAM FRANK STELLA – AND SOME THOUGHTS ON SEAN SCULLY




May 4th  saw the passing of the prominent American artist Frank Stella. Born in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1936, this highly distinctive painter of huge, arresting, colourful abstract canvases and paintings on aluminium died in New York where he had made his home.



Frank Stella at home

Frank Stella in his home, West Village, Manhattan, NY. Photo - Elena Cué



Frank Stella portrait by Bob Berg

Frank Stella - portrait by Bob Berg


Stella was an exponent of the so-called 'Hard-Edge' school of abstraction/minimalism. He wished his work to appear self-contained and somewhat impersonal. A state of flux became apparent over time, in the way that Stella approached his craft - from the monochrome 'pin-stripe' paintings of the late 1950's to the colourful exuberance of his later years – but a notable geometric baseline usually persisted.


Stella was influenced, perhaps inevitably, by the great Abstract Expressionists such as Pollock, Kline, Motherwell and De Kooning. Tracing the continuum forward, I see echoes of his early 'stripe' work on that of another great contemporary abstractionist, Sean Scully, in mark-making if not always in colour.



Frank Stella EAST BROADWAY painting

EAST BROADWAY - Frank Stella (1958)



HELENA painting by SEAN SCULLY

HELENA - Sean Scully (1993)


The hard-edged nature of Frank Stella's later work conveys, to me, a certain severity of utterance. There is no denying the exuberance and the humour, but I find a degree of cacophony in his vortices of opposing colours which appear strident to my eye. I align more with the minimalist stripes of his early work, which the artist tended to dismiss as 'tautology'; in them,“what you see is what you see”, Stella said. That statement is not a bad one, at any rate; it is, after all 'precisely 'what' we see that is so important. Furthermore, what we see may not be what the artist sees – or does not see, and this is what makes contemporary art so engaging.



GREY SCRAMBLE - painting by Frank Stella

GREY SCRAMBLE - Frank Stella (1968-9)



Painting by Frank Stella in Gallery Exhibition

Frank Stella in Exhibition


If Sean Scully has inherited some threads from the mantle of early Stella, he has beguilingly woven them into a more sensually heated fabric; Scully admits, indeed, to developing a fascination for the patterns and colours of Moroccan rugs after an early visit to that country.


Scully, incidentally, has described England as “basically a country that doesn't understand art”. Now there's a remark that might be worthy of discussion in this column! What do my readers think? Shall we talk about it? Scully possesses a highly sensitive and questing intellect. He also love the natural world as do I; his opinions bear thought and scrutiny.


With the passing of Frank Stella, we lose another link to the blazing glory of mid-twentieth century Abstract Expressionism, and a remarkable and prolific artist. Let us continue to appreciate and learn from those who are still with us, revering them as much as we do those who have departed.





IN MEMORIAM FRANK STELLA – AND SOME THOUGHTS ON SEAN SCULLY Copyright Haydn Dickenson 2024


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arthurpug
May 07
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Thanks, great piece

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