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Cecily Brown. Absolutely Fabulous, British Born Painter

August 13, 2009

Can’t believe I hadn’t heard of Cecily Brown until recently, she is quite an amazing painter. Large, luscious brush strokes invigorate the canvas with her signature style of blending abstraction with the figure.

She was born in London in 1969. And it was in London where she studied and received her Bachelors in Fine Arts from the Slade School of Art in 1993. Shortly after moving to the U.S., she had her first solo exhibition in New York at Deitch Projects in 1997 and a second in 1998, both were met with critical and commercial success.

She has a great respect for art history and her works reveal her reverence and high regard for artists such as Francisco de Goya, Nicolas Poussin, Willem de Kooning, and Joan Mitchell while incorporating into her works her distinct female view point.

From: Gagosian Gallery

Study for Sam Mere 2, 2008 Oil on linen, 85 x 89 inches


Expanding the tradition of abstract expressionism, she draws her influences from painters such as Willem de Kooning. Her paintings also recall the works of Philip Guston and the Bay Area Figurative School of the 1950s and 1960s. Brown often titles her paintings after classic Hollywood films, such as The Pyjama Game, The bedtime story and The Fugitive Kind.

Sexuality and attraction are important themes in her work, which she explores through semi-figurative and abstract means. Her paintings are in the permanent collections of several important museums and institutions including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in Buffalo, New York and the Des Moines Art Center, in Des Moines, Iowa (in 2006 the Des Moines Art Center organized Brown’s first one-person museum exhibition in the U.S. – an exhibition that later travelled to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston as well). Wikipedia.

From: artnet : Saatchi Gallery

“Cottage No.3,” 1991 Oil on canvas, h: 36.2 x w: 31.1 in

Cecily Brown, Cottage No.3

Brown became famous for restoring a certain sensuality to painting. Her early works, such as those in ‘The Skin Game’, her first show at the Gagosian, were erotic, both in that they depicted sexual acts and in the way the consistency of the paint evoked such human textures.

‘I think when I was doing a lot of sexual paintings,’ she remembers, ‘what I wanted – in a way that I think now is too literal – was for the paint to embody the same sensations that bodies would. Oil paint very easily suggests bodily fluids and flesh.’

But her images were too broken down to be pornographic. Her more recent Black Paintings, for example, clearly contain a naked figure, but they are more like hallucinations than depictions. ‘I’ve been trying to get away from always having couples and sex,’ she says. Ideally, she would like to produce an oeuvre that is not too coherent; though she thinks every painter has a mark that is instinctive, ‘like the sound of your voice’, she tries to push herself so that no one can say she paints a certain way.

Excerpted from The Observer, Sunday, 12 June 2005 article by Gaby Wood

From: artnet and  Robert Miller Gallery

“Untitled,” 1997 Oil on unprimed linen h: 73 x w: 81 in

Cecily Brown, Untitled

To this end, Brown works on up to 20 paintings at once. When I visit the studio, two ‘big messy things’, as she calls her abstract paintings, are facing each other. On another wall, there are works in progress she refers to as ‘office paintings’ – red interiors, like furious Vuillards, that wrong-foot you as you look. By the door is an almost-monochrome oil based on a Victorian picture puzzle – little girls whose forms make up a skull – which is smeared and scrambled until it is unrecognisable except as a gut-felt memento mori.

All of Brown’s paintings are unresolvable puzzles of some kind. Her marks can be gnarled and vicious, ghostly or gloomy, or they can be elegiac, arrestingly sweet, precise. ‘I’ve always wanted to have a lot of different ways of saying something, maybe sometimes to the detriment of the paintings,’ Brown says, ‘so that you might have a veil of paint that suggests some very delicate skin, but then I’ll want something very meaty and clogged next to it.’ When painter John Currin called Brown’s paintings ‘promiscuous’, he didn’t just mean they were about sex; he meant they could exist in all these worlds, flitting between possibilities. Excerpted from The Observer, Sunday, 12 June 2005 article by Gaby Wood

From: www.albrightknox.org/acquisitions/acq_2000/Brown.html Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
“Father of the Bride,” 1999 oil on canvas, 100 x 110″
Brown's painting 'Father of the Bride'

Cecily Brown is one of a group of young English artists currently making a splash on the international art scene. Born in London in 1970, she dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to study art, eventually graduating from the Slade School of Art in London in 1993. The following year she moved to Manhattan where she lives and works today.

Brown’s paintings first came to the attention of the New York art world when she exhibited what she called her “bunny gang rape” paintings in a Manhattan gallery in 1997. Notable collectors including, Charles Saatchi and Agnes Gund, were quick to acquire these works and Brown’s career was launched.

This painting is from a later series in which fragmented body parts have been totally consumed by the painterly surface. These paintings have been described by art critic Roberta Smith as “… an attempt to juice up and feminize the shop worn vocabulary of abstract expressionism.” The titles that Brown chooses are often taken from Hollywood movies. In this case, the title is taken from the 1950 classic, Father of the Bride. References to brides, the sexually-charged notion of a new marriage, and the suggestions of body parts combine to evoke layers of meaning in this exuberantly painted gestural abstraction. As the artist describes it: “I’m trying to be in a space between abstraction and figuration.” – Jennifer Bayles, Educator for Special Projects

From: artnet and  Gagosian Gallery, NY
“Red Rum,” 2001 Oil on linen, h: 48 x w: 60 in
Cecily Brown, Red Rum
Cecily Brown’s interest in figuration stems from the narcissistic relation between viewer and depicted body. Attraction through identification plays a central theme in Brown’s work. Her paint insinuates the sensation of physical experience, alluding to bodies in motion. Her vague characters, both delineated and implied, become surrogates for viewers’ projection. Brown’s gestural abstractions transform as expanded psychological fields. Her paint – spattered, smeared, groped, and battered — configures in promiscuous spectres; suggestively explicit, her fractured compositions replicate the subconscious formulations of drive and desire. The Saatchi Gallery. Text by Patricia Ellis
From:  artnet and Gagosian Gallery, CA
“Red Painting 1,” 2002  Oil on linen, h: 80 x w: 80 in
Cecily Brown, Red Painting 1
Through painting, Cecily Brown conveys both somatic and intellectual eroticism as a metaphysical experience. The corporeal indulgence of her medium reverberates as spiritual enlightenment; this climactic elation is replicated through the artist’s physically intensive process. Each canvas is permeated with an ethereal light, giving both a sense of airy daydream and piercing ecstasy. Cecily Brown’s paintings possess a transfixing aura where painterly reverence and female sexuality reside as destined bedfellows: extraordinarily beautiful and wickedly tempting. The Saatchi Gallery

From:  artnet and Gagosian Gallery, NY
“Tripe with Lemons,” 2004 Oil on linen, h: 97 x w: 103 in

Cecily Brown, Tripe with Lemons
Her works are collected by the most renowned museums of the world, such as Tate Britain, and the artist is considered the shooting star of a new expressive painting. “I use erotic photography to study the human body. What interests me is the emotional matter of these patterns”, Cecily Brown says. Gagosian Gallery

From: artnet and Gagosian Gallery, UK
“Ha Ha Fresh,” 2006 Oil on linen, h: 77 x w: 110 in
Cecily Brown, Ha Ha Fresh
Brown’s vigorous and tactile oil paintings evoke the breadth of human experience, particularly the emotions associated with touch, pleasure, and passion. Widely inspired by the history of painting, from the figurative orders of Nicolas Poussin, Edouard Manet, and William Hogarth to the heady abstract expressionism of Willem de Kooning, Brown brings to the conventions of the genre a bold and, at times, ribald femininity. Gagosian Gallery

From: artnet and McClain Gallery
“Untitled,” 2007  Monotype on Lanaquarelle paper, h: 22 x w: 30 in
Cecily Brown, Untitled
Throughout her oeuvre, Brown has repeated certain motifs yet ascribes them different significations over time. For example the tent form — a primary image in her work that she associates with childhood books and nomads as well as paintings by Picasso, Goya and Bosch—is, in the new work, layered with fresh imagery that obfuscates the original form in varying degrees. Gagosian Gallery

From: artnet and Gagosian Gallery, NY
“Carnival and Lent,” 2006-2008 Oil on Linen, h: 97 x w: 103 in
Cecily Brown, Carnival and Lent
For a terrific review of her work, check out: David Cohen on Cecily Brown at Gagosian
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