The structure I use is very subjective, and there is a kind of momentum where the energy flies off the edge of the painting and is propelled on to the next painting … It’s very easy for a lot of abstraction, for a lot of painting, to get sentimental or mushy … there’s something about breaking the fiction that somehow, to me, gives the work nobility and dignity as a thing in the world … A lot of abstraction can get so self-indulgent. It’s like a kind of gentleman’s sport. It is so rarefied … it really is the artist in his ivory tower. After Rothko it’s very easy for an artist to get seduced by that and to get seduced also by Mondrian with his wonderful sensuality. And then they get vague, self-indulgent, and sophomoric in their work. I’ve tried to make my paintings moving, powerful, and necessary but to give them a kind of nobility — a physical strength so that they are proud of who they are … They are beautiful but also potent.
Sean Scully, cited in John Caldwell, ‘The new paintings’, Sean Scully (exhibition catalogue), Pittsburgh: Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, 1985, pp. 17–21 (p. 20).