Cecily Brown’s gestural manner, combined with a constantly expanding repertory of found and remembered imagery from the history of art and her own experience of popular culture, has resulted in a novel, expanding, innovative oeuvre. Nature forms an overarching theme, whether expressed through human urges and desires, or depictions of fragmented mammals and flora, and Brown’s imposition of her own sensibility is a paramount aspect of her approach to picture making. But her work is not conventionally autobiographical. There are no direct self-portraits or attempts to achieve psychological likeness. There is no alter-ego who stands for her condition. Instead, her body of work forms an autobiography of impactful imagery. It is constructed from a range of forms that she comes across in her voracious day-to-day scanning of visual imagery, or material she has retained from her youth and student days that has crept back later in life and seems, with hindsight, to reflect upon where she’s been.
You start with something that’s say, a day old, and then you look at the different directions it can go. And in a way, you can argue that you’re never losing anything, because you try and always keep those things in mind. You have to be willing to lose it all. And that really does happen all the time in painting. And I always want to keep that possibility, just to go back to what kind of painter I am. That’s what I call being a painterly painter, and what’s kind of old-fashioned about it is that attitude that you can lose it all.