Cecily Brown - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Cecily Brown, 22 January – 26 February 2005

  • Catalogue Essay

    'The more you look at them, the more satisfying they become for the viewer. The more time you give to the painting, the more you get back.'

    - CECILY BROWN, 2009

    Since relocating from London to New York in the 1990s, Cecily Brown has been a constant and prominent figure in the contemporary art world. New York provided the young artist with distance from the Young British Art movement taking form in the UK; she explains that ‘being a sort of old-fashioned painter, I didn’t feel hip enough for London. Here [New York], the art world was so much bigger. There was more room for different kinds of work … One of the reasons I was so attracted to New York was that it struck a chord, the physicality of it and the energy.’ (Cecily Brown in H. Amirsadeghi, M. Homayoun Eisler, Sanctuary: Britain’s Artists and their Studios, London, 2011, pp. 34-39). This freedom allowed Brown to pursue her own brand of painting, one of vigorous brush strokes, dramatic palettes and overall gestural chaos. The present lot is a particularly strong example of her characteristic style.

    Employing a loaded brush, wide-ranging colours, smooth transitions and dense, visceral layers of paint, Brown finds inspiration from a long history of painting. Her disparate periods of reference range from European Old Master figure painting to Abstract Expressionism, from Lucian Freud to Francis Bacon. Bacon’s impact on Brown is particularly evident in many of her paintings, where his violent distortions and aggressive study of the human form can be seen. For Brown, it is impossible to place her artistic exploration in a vacuum: it stems from a long line of tradition and is in no way independent from painterly antiquity. She explains, ‘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.’ (Cecily Brown, Cecily Brown, Gagosian Gallery and Rizzoli, New York, 2008, p. 16).

    In the early 1990s, Brown’s work was mainly figurative and overtly sexual, but she turned to fully abstract compositions by the end of the decade. By 2004, the year Park was painted, Brown had already worked her way through a myriad of classic subject matters including interior and figural studies. The present lot is a piece from her series of abstract landscapes, with vague horizons, hints of blue sky and subtle green and earthy tones. Presenting as a diptych, a line divides the right hand canvas from the left: the right hand side of the composition is formed of a more frenzied, knotted series of brushstrokes. Reading the canvas from right to left, the zealous tangle of pale colours seems to dissipate into a much softer composition as it moves across the picture plane. Her work remains firmly planted in a place of inherent tension, balancing between the softness of nature and the intensity of flesh. Brown’s work is driven by bodies, intertwined figures, lust and turbulent emotion, always trying to tempt some sort of strain, contradiction and intensity - be it through colours, forms, or a sexual image that is subtly disguised in abstraction. This delicate play of vague form and explicit content avoids the predictable in her work, turning it into a complex experience of sensations. With no certain viewpoint her paintings seem to float, creating an ‘ambiguous space, one that defied gravity. I wanted it to be impossible for the viewer to know where they stood in relation to the action.’ (Cecily Brown in exh. cat., Cecily Brown: Paintings, Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, 2005, p. 41).

    Brown has described her chosen material of oil paint as ‘sensual [because] it moves, it catches the light, it's great for skin and flesh and heft and meat. I wanted to make something that you couldn't tear your eyes away from. 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.’ (Cecily Brown in ‘New York Minute: Cecily Brown,’ AnOther, 14 September 2012). Like her deeply entrenched relationship to historical painting, oil for Brown is an inseparable artistic companion. She takes ‘cues from the paint, so it's this total back-and-forth between my will and the painting directing what to do next. The painting has a completely different idea than I do about what it should be. Things just naturally break down and become more abstract. When things get too abstract, I definitely feel like I want to bring the figure back. There is a line that I'm always striving for that's not half-way between figuration and abstraction, it is both. It's almost like pulling a moment of clarity in the middle of all the chaos.’ (Cecily Brown in ‘New York Minute: Cecily Brown,’ AnOther, 14 September 2012).



oil on linen, in two parts
overall 195.6 × 279.4 cm (77 × 110 in).
Each part signed and dated ‘Cecily Brown 2004’ on the reverse.

£400,000 - 600,000 ‡♠

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 12 February 2015 7pm