Sean Scully, Painter Poet by Donald Kuspit

I think the key to Scully’s art are the 13 etchings he made to accompany James Joyce’s Pomes Penyeach, 1993 and his 10 Etchings for Frederico Garcia Lorca, 2003, along with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, which, as Scully said, “made a lasting impression on him.”  Joyce and Beckett are Irish, as Scully is, and Lorca was Spanish.  The homosexual and republican Lorca was a misfit in Franco’s fascist Spain; he was murdered by it.  Joyce and Beckett were alienated from Irish society; Scully was what might be called a natural born alien and outsider in it because he was an Irish Traveler, “a traditionally peripatetic ethno-cultural group originating in Ireland,” sometimes mistaken for or confused with Gypsies, “generally found in Eastern Europe.”  They are two distinct cultures and societies, with different languages.  In 2011 there were around 29,500 Irish Travelers in the Irish Republic, and they are generally regarded as inferior whites, as the scholar Michal Wolniak notes, and as such marginalized, and perceived as “mad, primitive others,” as he writes.  Sean Scully, born in Dublin, Ireland in 1945 to working class Irish Traveler family, could not help but have an inferiority complex. 
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