Untitled #74

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, USA
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    An exquisite work that evinces her idiosyncratic mastery of the painted medium, Cecily Brown’s Untitled #74 is as veritable gem within the artist’s prodigious oeuvre. Although better known for her large-scale works, Untitled #74 is an exquisite example of her smaller-scale, jewel-like paintings, a series which Brown began in 2008 to interpret the role of human scale and perception in her fragmented subjects through a variety of brushes and techniques. These smaller paintings which remain untitled are not studies for larger paintings, yet by being works in themselves where Brown explores and resolves ideas and forms that emerge in her larger work, acquire new significance in this format. Painted in 2008, the work gives a focused insight into the artist’s unique working method that stylistically compounds the trajectory of European painting – from the dynamism of the Baroque, to the fleeting touch of Impressionist masters, and the lyrical flare of Abstract Expressionism – whilst creating a painterly vision that is wholly unique, announcing her own position within the grand history of western painting. Here, Brown indulges in the most pure and free-handed abstraction of her career, eschewing concretely referential forms in order to give command to the vivacity of pure colour and the confident assiduity of her delicate brushwork. Whilst the fleshy pink tones and visceral reds of this intimate canvas ring with the erotic sensuality that characterised Brown’s earlier career, here she shifts her conceptual gaze from the life giving force of reproduction towards a more elemental vision of creation: against a darkened ground illuminated with the fractured matter of stardust it seems as if the artist looks to the cosmos and the fabric of the universe itself. Painted just two years after Brown’s major solo retrospective at the Museum of Fine Art Boston in late 2006, Untitled #74 expresses a stylistic apex in the artist’s career. Today Brown’s paintings sit in international museum collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Tate, London.

    Brown’s career has remained unequivocally focused on the painted medium, in stark contrast to many other artists of the YBA generation that she first worked alongside in London during the 1990s. She has constantly explored and celebrated the inherent tactility of oil paint and its ability to map the exquisite nuances of the painter’s hand as it glides over the canvas. Composed as a highly detailed study, the present work exhibits the enthralling versatility of oil paint and the artist’s ability to create a mesmeric metaphor for life itself. As Brown explained: ‘I am interested in the unfixed nature of things. I want the work to have a trapped energy so that the paint seems to vibrate in place. I want the viewing of it to approximate the experience of being in the world.’ (D. Ashton, Cecily Brown, New York, 2008, p.25.) Utilising the brush as such, Brown crafts an abstracted appreciation of the natural world through an insistence on subjectivity. However in this process, the artist condenses art historical references and pays homage to her predecessors: the tactile strokes of Impressionism; the micro repetitions of Pointillism; the luridly luscious palette of Chaim Soutine; and the disquieting experience of Surrealist paintings, in particular calling to mind the coral-like details of the horse-woman in The Antipope by Max Ernst, which all inhabit this dense surface. From the 20th century, the early works of American Abstract Expressionists Phillip Guston and Willem de Kooning are also present. Exemplified in Untitled #74 is Brown’s unique ability to evoke and carry these weighted references on the peripheries of our consciousness, never making too direct an assimilation.

    Brown’s stylistic development has been guided by evolving explorations into the relationship between abstraction and figuration. Whilst abstracted figures and dislocated body parts charged earlier compositions with an intense sexual energy, here the artist gives over fully to the sensuality of pure brushwork itself, recalling her earlier themes with a stark economy of form. As the artist later noted: ‘I like the fact that because my earlier work was so known for having erotic contents, I actually need to give very little now and it's seen as erotic or hinting at erotic.’ (‘New York Minute: Cecily Brown,’ Another, 14 September 2012.) In the present work all bound forms have been dissolved, privileging instead the autonomy of individual tones which play off one another through a balancing of colour that seems at once calculated and intuitive. The charged flesh tones still populate the canvas intermittently with flashes of raw erotic energy, yet these are offset and animated by even sparser flashes of crystalline white highlights and instances of marine blue at the edges. Brown adopts shortened brushstrokes that fan out and circulate around one another in clusters, forming a dense palimpsest of texture. The intense layering appears to build from a dark and enigmatic ground that pushes the most vibrant colours further forward into our field of vision. As such, regular spatial appreciation is confused and the sensuous lines and washes of earlier works are usurped by a sense of mystery that evokes the dark and frenetic energy of the universe. Brown’s painting thus seeks to capture and create an essential life force: ‘I think that painting is a kind of alchemy…the paint is transformed into image, and hopefully paint and image transform themselves into a third and new thing….I want to catch something in the act of becoming something else’ (the artist quoted in Cecily Brown, New York: Gagosian Gallery and Rizzoli, 2008, p. 16.) In an accomplished work such as Untitled #74, paint is yielded into an ambiguous cerebral image as Brown endlessly titillates the human capacity for scopophilic pleasure.

  • Catalogue Essay

    塞西麗·布朗的《無題74號》彰顯藝術家對於繪畫這種媒材的獨特掌握,可謂是其卓越作品寶庫內的一件珍寶。雖然其大尺幅作品更廣爲人知,《無題74號》是她相對小尺幅,珍寶類佳畫作的典絕佳範例,布朗於2008年開始創作這一系列作品,透過紛繁多樣的筆觸與技巧,於碎片化的主題中探索人類尺度與感官所扮演的角色。這些無題的小尺幅作品作爲成品,並并非為大尺幅作品的習作,布朗於其中嘗試、解決其大型作品創作思路與構圖問題,它們隨後可能再現於大尺幅作品中,並并以此種形式詮釋嶄新的意義。創作於2008年,本件作品爲深入瞭解藝術家獨特的創作手法提供窗口,它既與歐洲繪畫發展軌跡不謀而合:從巴洛克的活力十足,、印象派大師轉瞬即逝的筆觸到抽象表現主義的詩意光芒,又呈現她獨具一格的繪畫視角,在西方繪畫歷史長河中留下專屬於她的一筆濃墨重彩。布朗於此沉浸於純粹且無拘無視的抽象創作中,避免提供具象可參照指代的形態,遊刃有餘地採用明快色彩與精細筆觸。儘管此件小尺幅作品的肉質粉色調與內臟式紅色調充盈著布朗早期作品中的情慾感官享受,但她的創作概念由生命為創作助力轉變為一種更為質樸的創作觀:在佈滿零落星塵的暗色背景上,藝術家仿若凝視宇宙星際及其構成。布朗於2006年底在波士頓美術館舉辦重要回顧迴歸展,創作於兩年後的《無題74號》標識着藝術家創作生涯的巔峯。現今其作品獲納入多間國際博物館的典館藏,包括紐約所羅門‧古根漢博物館、紐約惠特尼美國藝術博物館及倫敦泰特美術館。

    布朗一直明確地堅守繪畫這一種媒材,與許多1990年代和她共事過的同輩英國青年藝術家大相徑庭。她持續探索、欣賞油彩這種媒材的獨有觸感及其於畫布上捕捉藝術家手感部精細動作的能力。本件作品細節豐富,呈現油彩的多重可能性以及藝術家爲生命本身營造動人比喻的能力。正如布朗所解釋,「我對於事物不確定的本質感興趣。我希望作品能補捉具有困境到的能量,以至於顏料恰如其分地顫動起來。我希望觀看它的時候,接近於與存活於世界上的體驗相似。」(D.阿詩頓,《塞西麗·布朗》,紐約,2008年,第25頁) 以此種方式運用畫筆,布朗通過堅持主觀性,精心培育對於自然世界的抽象審美。然而在這個過程中,藝術家濃縮藝術史參照物並且致敬前輩藝術家:印象派觸感豐富的筆觸;點彩畫派的細膩重複;柴姆·蘇丁華麗鮮豔的調色盤;以及超現實主義畫作中引人焦慮的體驗感,尤其令人聯想到馬克斯·恩斯特之作品<<偽教宗>>,畫中馬臉女人身上之如珊瑚般的細節,無不濃縮在其畫面中。二十世紀中,美國抽象表現主義藝術家菲利普·加斯頓與威廉·德·庫寧的風格也均有體現。《無題74號》是布朗獨一無二創作力的完美典範,既引人潛意識聯想起大師藝術級的參照物,卻又從未又避免囫圇吞棗的直接被同化。

    布朗對抽象與具象關係的持續探索引領了其作品風格的演化。其早期作品中的抽象人物與分離肢體將作品構圖填滿了濃郁的情慾色彩,而此處藝術家將純粹筆觸的感官享受拉到極致,引人聯想起其極少圖像的早期主題。正如藝術家後期評論到:「我早期的作品因爲情慾內容而廣爲人知,如今我只需要展現很少的內容便已會被認爲情慾或暗指情慾,我喜歡這種狀態。」(「紐約一刻:塞西麗·布朗」,《另一個》,2012年9月14日) 本件作品中所有束縛的形態都被瓦解,轉而強調不同色調之間的相互平衡,顯得既精心安排又隨性自然。飽滿的肉色調依然間或出現在畫布上帶來原始情慾的光芒,卻與寥寥幾筆的透亮白色及畫布邊緣的海藍色相互作用、撩撥。布朗採用呈扇狀散開的短促筆觸,筆筆之間相互簇擁,營造密集重疊重寫本的濃郁質感。這鮮明的層次感好似由一層神秘莫測的暗黑背景開始,將明快色彩一步步推進我們的視野。藉此,尋常的空間辨識被模糊,先前作品中的美感線條、色塊被一股神秘感取而代之,激發關於暗黑且狂熱宇宙的聯想。布朗的作品力圖捕捉並并創作一股不可或缺的生命力:「我認為繪畫是一種煉金術…顏料轉化為圖像,但願顏料和圖像一併轉化為第三種新的事物…我渴望在成為其他事物前能捕捉到某些東西。」(引自藝術家,《塞西麗·布朗》,紐約,高古軒畫廊及Rizzoli出版,2008年,第16頁) 於其佳作《無題74號》中,布朗無休止地挑逗人類關於窺視慾的極限,顏料隨之轉化作大腦中曖昧不清的影像。

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Untitled #74

2008
signed and dated 'Cecily Brown 07-08' on the reverse
oil on linen
41.9 x 31.8 cm. (16 1/2 x 12 1/2 in.)
Painted in 2008.

Estimate
HK$1,200,000 - 2,200,000 
€135,000-247,000
$154,000-282,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018