Without a doubt, the work of New York-based British artist Cecily Brown (*1969 London) is one of the most exciting examples of painterly flair on the international contemporary scene.
A hallmark of her unmistakable oeuvre is its crossover of classical subjects from art history with themes from everyday culture – a sovereign, light-handed interweaving of the high and low-brow of our worlds of experience. With tremendous force, her visual worlds assault the viewer. Immersed in a fluidity of colorful progressions, painterly informal omissions are interwoven with simultaneously occurring facets of motifs, creating recurring kaleidoscopic pulsating afterimages on the viewer’s retina.
Less well known is Cecily Brown’s extensive graphic work. In many cases, Brown uses drawing to approach individual pictorial motifs or groups of works or to rethink them through the medium of drawing. Over the course of our first in-depth conversations last year, the artist was instantly enthusiastic about engaging with the historical collection holdings of a renowned graphic museum and approaching them in an exhibition project at “eye level”. Rarely before has Cecily Brown engaged so intensively with a museum collection.
At the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich, she now presents newly created works alongside individual paintings from recent years. The impulses for this show range from Bosch and Bruegel to Cézanne and Michelangelo.
One focus is Cecily Brown’s examination of Leda mit dem Schwan (Leda and the Swan), an enigmatic grisaille by the young Franz Marc from 1907, which captivated Cecily Brown in the study room of the Munich graphic arts museum. With an almost euphoric creative drive, the artist quickly created a suite of nine drawings and eight paintings based on Franz Marc’s composition. What is impressive is how Marc’s original transforms from picture to picture in her hand, and how it emerges afresh again and again. A process that has been used repeatedly in her work to approach a subject from all angles. This intense encounter with a single work allows us an unexpectedly intense insight into the artist’s creative process.
Cecily Brown left London for New York as a young painter in the early 1990s. It was a time when painting seemed to have virtually had its day. In the years that followed, she succeeded with light-hearted ease in developing furious yet at the same time profound painting in the melting pot that is New York – painting which to this day seems to oscillate aesthetically between the old and new worlds and indeed these contrasts are what mark out her artistic signature style. The Munich exhibition project will impressively bring all this to life. We look forward to it.
Director, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München