When I finished reading Paul Anel’s article on the chapel art of Sean Scully, in the current Image (#91), I was moved to close my eyes in prayer. It wasn’t verbal prayer. It was a sitting within a sense of the sacred.
Both Scully’s art and Anel’s graced account of it had drawn me into this sacred space. Anel focuses on Scully’s transformation of an ancient, crumbling building—the Chapel of Santa Cecilia on the grounds of Montserrat Abbey in Spain—into a glistening, vibrant work of art: indeed the article is titled “Gathering the Light.”
There’s no point in my repeating Anel’s account here; you can read it in Image online. What I want to ponder instead is, first, what drew me into prayer on finishing the article. Partly, I think, it was the humility of both Scully and Anel. Neither calls attention to himself in his work, whether visual art or prose.
We don’t learn that Anel is a priest until the penultimate paragraph, when he recounts celebrating the first Mass in the newly reborn chapel. And Anel has discussed Scully’s “humility and objectivity” in keeping himself out of his art. Not totally, because any art has to come out of the artist’s soul and life experience.
For instance, a tragedy in Scully’s life (the death of his nineteen-year-old son in a car crash) appears in one of the chapel’s abstract paintings: blocks of black, grey, and white oils painted onto aluminum. “The placement of this painting in the chapel,” Anel writes, “transforms the tragedy into an offering, the failure into a prayer.” [Read more…]