From the very beginning, the painter proposed to maintain the contemplative and meditative atmosphere of this church. Very soon the artist chose his Holly series as the main theme for Santa Cecilia. He had conceived this series in 2004 and had shown it at the Kunstverein in Aichach.
This ensemble is a personal interpretation of the fourteen Stations of the Cross, which he had painted in memory of his mother Ivy, shortly after her death. Scully saw himself, when he was only six years old, looking scaredly at the Stations of the Cross in the little church of Highbury, while a heavy hailstorm pounded on the roof. The 2004 series Holly was dispersed after Aichach exhibition, but in this final installation in Montserrat, Scully has recreated the ensemble again, in a different way, but with a similar intensity with the name Holly-Stationes.
Sean Scully’s intervention at Santa Cecília de Montserrat gradually increased with the passing of time. In 2012, immediately after the Holly series, he painted Cecília, seeking to reflect in this work the very soul of the titular saint: her femininity, music, love and art. This piece has a singular tone and composition within the overall ensemble: in it, Scully uses a brighter, more joyful colour range, whilst the composition is more complex, artful. In 2015, Scully returned to this theme with his second Cecília (Landline Cecilia), in which blue and warm reddish tones predominate, suggesting the saint’s serene yet vital spirit. The triptych Doric Nyx (2013), a piece that is visually reminiscent of Holly, is characterised by intense, profound, austere colour, suggesting a balanced, powerful nature. There’s still another smaller triptych, 2014, a harmonious melody of very different blue tones that combine gently to produce a sweet, dreamlike effect. In all cases the technique used is oil on aluminum or on copper, and some of the pieces are really impressive, large. The last painting that the artist has joined the set is an oil on canvas untitled Barcelona Wall of Light Pink (2013).
Sean Scully’s artistic contribution increases even further with eight stained-glass windows in different colours (wine red, golden ochre, sea blue), all tones that the Irish artist frequently uses. Scully designed the stained-glass himself, observing with satisfaction the effect caused by his favourite colours when crossed by sunlight, spontaneously creating irisations that painting cannot achieve; it is as if the light, changing over the course of the day, had come to life.
For the first time in his long artistic career, Sean Scully has painted three frescoes in the church of Santa Cecilia, most faithfully following this ancient technique. They are small-scale interventions that add warmth and contrast to other large pieces that fill the walls of the temple.
Finally, Scully installed three beautiful glass crosses for the altar and side walls, a stained glass trasaltar and four chandeliers. Overall, it is an artistic symphony that will amaze all who see the new church of Santa Cecilia.
Photos: © Raül Maigí / Museu de Montserrat