Home Magazine Cecily Brown: A Biomorphic Moment

In a bodiless world, where everything is moving towards what is thought to be a higher-state, made of abstractness and concept, only our physical presence reminds us about what we are made of; only our flesh stands as proof of us being alive. In an art world that is changing its appearance and denying its substance while trying to find its place in this metamorphic void, hope is given by those who search for humanly answers in the human body itself. When it comes to painting, pristine personalities like the one embodied by Cecily Brown, open our eyes to an intermediate state, characterized by biomorphic moments in which both figurativism and abstraction are allowed to simultaneously exist in a unique dialectic scenario.

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British born painter Cecily Brown, has been well known for opening new pathways towards the definition of being a figurative artist in contemporary times. Her paintings are characterized by the use of the human body to analyze the most abstractive and psychological aspects of existence.  If we take our time to dive deep into Brown’s aesthetic, we will find both a strong connection to the past and a profound understanding of its placement in a contemporary timeframe; with highly referential imagery, which absorbs and exploits forms and compositions from the old masters, combining them with the most forward-looking examples of abstract expressionism. The result is what seems to be an intermediate stage in which forms are suggested but not fully explained or accomplished, in which movement is described by stillness, in which presence is chosen over appearance. “I feel like when the work gets more abstract when there is nobody, there’s kind of no substance. I need the body as a kind of vehicle to talk about being alive”.


Cecily Brown, "The Year of The Scavenger", (2012). Oil on linen


Cecily Brown, "Confessions of a Window Cleaner", (2000-2001). Oil on canvas


Cecily Brown’s work is driven by a deep understanding of the truth that lies in the figurative work of some of the greatest painters from the past, for instance: Tiziano, Velazquez, Rubens, El Greco and Goya, and even deeper by her love for Degas’ meaningful compositions. But the turning point lies in the choice to combine what absorbed from the old masters in terms of shapes and color tones, with the expressive approach that we can find in painters like Willem de Kooning and Arshile Gorky; where freedom allows the artist to use abstraction as a vehicle to describe happenings that are taking place in a determined time and space. There can be no abstraction, or conceptualism, without its physical reference, and without any doubt there is no better subject than the human body itself, to talk about one’s soul and the transcendental depths of it.


Cecily Brown, "Chestnut and Snowball" (2013). Oil on canvas


This particular way of thinking finds its painterly outcome in Cecily Brown’s attempts to suggest the human presence without having to depict it in full, in the choice to leave a vacuum for the observer to fulfil with his own soul.  When diving into Brown’s paintings, the viewer is allowed to create a world of his own; a world in which his interpretation, creates an escalation towards a moment of truth. An instant, in which the human body acts as a gateway to the abstractness of thought and imagination. “For me, when the body disappears, it’s almost like there is no there, there. It just becomes paint showing off, doing tricks, playing games. Paint that is pleased with itself”.

Cecily Brown, "Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard" [Triptyc], (2011). Oil on linen

Written by Mario Rodolfo Silva

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