Life, colour, motion and erotic power pervade the works of Cecily Brown. The British painter (born 1969) is considered as one of the central figures in the resurgence of painting since the turn of the century.
Since the end of the 1990s Brown has lived in New York, the epicentre of Abstract Expressionist American art in the post-war period. Artists like Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston and especially Joan Mitchell, but also her fellow countryman Francis Bacon and far older masters, have played a major role as inspiration.
Cecily Brown’s relationship with history is not about following imperceptibly in the footsteps of the artists mentioned, for when she made her impact in earnest on the art scene the figurations and fragments in her works had in the meantime become a far more complex and “difficult” issue.
She has maintained and actively exploited the perplexity and incomprehension that the current age can have in the face of such an obviously improvisational talent, which at one and the same time pays tribute to the potential of painting for seduction, and insistently grafts onto it classic pornography, elements from the visual worlds of Bosch, Goya and Hogarth, and most recently motifs from the human disasters of our own time.
A unique donation
Being able to incorporate a work by Cecily Brown in the Louisiana collection has been on the museum wish list for a long time. This wish has now – quite sensationally – come true as the artist herself has decided that her more than ten-metre-long painting Where, When, How Often and with Whom – which gives its name to the exhibition – can remain hanging in the museum in Humlebæk after the exhibition closes.
“This is truly a uniquely generous gesture,” says Louisiana’s Director Poul Erik Tøjner of the gift. “Not only has Cecily Brown taken the public and reviewers here by storm; internationally too the exhibition has aroused attention. And of course we are as happy as can be that to all this we can add such an event as the donation truly is.”
Where, When, How Often and with Whom was painted in 2017, and like her work in general it is full of references to the great masters of art history. But it is also directly inspired by the so-called Burkini affair in the summer of 2016 when French police accosted a veiled woman on the beach in Nice.
“I was angry at the thought that women are being told what they can wear and not wear in the 21st century,” says Cecily Brown, who makes no bones about the fact that conflict is a primary source of her art. Of the specific work she also says:
“From the start the painting has had a connection with my experience of the Louisiana, of the place, the sky around it and the sea; and in spite of everything else it’s a work with a shipwreck in it. And then at the same time,” she says, “I simply want to express my gratitude for the great cooperation I’ve had with the museum around the exhibition.”
Part of a series
Brown’s work offers a female artist’s gaze at a world which in many ways has been created by men – and that part of it is hard to ignore. The exhibition is one of a succession of presentations of contemporary painting featuring Peter Doig, Daniel Richter and Tal R.