FIFTY ONE TOO
Opening: Saturday, September 11th 2021 from 2 – 6 pm.
FIFTY ONE TOO is excited to announce its first exhibition of American artist Sean Sullivan. Situated somewhere between painting, drawing, printmaking and writing, Sullivan’s work is difficult to classify and contains a kind of enigmatic mystery that continues to fascinate.
In this first exhibition at the gallery, Sullivan presents the viewer with a diverse selection of works that provide insight into his various subjects and techniques. The majority of the works on view were made using a transfer technique for which Sullivan creates his own kind of carbon paper by applying oil sticks to a sheet of paper by means of a silkscreen squeegee. The resulting homemade oil transfer paper is then placed face down on a sheet of found paper – usually pages torn from old books – after which Sullivan makes a ballpoint drawing on the verso of the found sheet. Through the transfer paper, the drawing is then ‘printed’ on the recto of the book page.
By means of this ‘primitive’ transfer process, Sullivan creates among others meticulously elaborated line drawings featuring architectural in- and exteriors (such as facades, canopies, brick structures and other ornamentation). The absence of people in these images is striking, as if we are looking at a weathered architectural design for an extinct society. Both these works, as well as the more abstract geometric design-like patterns on view, are relatively simple in structure and composition and feature recurrent motifs and shapes, such as closely packed parallel lines, rows of circles, dots and cursive curls. Through this modest technical vocabulary, Sullivan is able to obtain both highly stylised compositions, as well as pictorially very dense surfaces in which movement is created through repetition. ’Nu Mnemonics’ (2020) or ‘End Paper’ (2020) are examples of such almost vibrating works. The calligraphic ‘scribbles’ of the latter may remind the viewer of a chaotic piece of music paper or a written text in a language that has no inherent meaning.
“I approach drawing and printmaking as a recording process akin to and inspired by early photography and musical recordings. These early recordings allow us to not only experience the intention of the makers, what they thought and how they felt, but also the errant details of the atmospheric conditions in which they were made. Those marks beyond their control. Together, the limitation of technology and the weight of time produce artifacts of otherworldly tone and mystery.
The process I employ attempts to invite similar unknowns. The drawings themselves are relatively simple in structure and execution. They are made quickly with a ballpoint pen, a ruler, and a homemade version of large scale carbon paper (oil paint applied to paper). The result is a primitive transfer process that ‘records’ in oil paint, not only the intended lines of the drawing, the ideas themselves, but just as importantly, the unpredictable marks of chance.”
Born in New York, USA in 1975
Lives and works in the Hudson Valley, NY, USA.