Cecily Brown's kaleidoscopic Tricky swirls in a dreamlike vision of covert eroticism. Slippery glimpses of fleshy bodies and romping bunnies slide in and out of view, falling into the gap between abstraction and figuration. The viscous consistency of her paint deliberately evokes the visual effects of bodily fluids and flesh, but her elusive subjects must fight for supremacy with the background, merging and unravelling forms in a rippling blur of motion.
The sensuous textures of Brown's thick, heavily worked brushstrokes exude vitality. The energy and immediacy of her exuberant gestural style evokes the action painting associated with the American Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s, yet she subverts this male dominated tradition of 'heroic' abstraction by injecting a feminised sense of sexuality. The pulsating Tricky can be seen to share Willem de Kooning's creative use of ambiguity and dissolution of figures and objects, using figurative representation as a springboard for an exploration of the expressive painterly mark. Although more determinedly abstract than many of her paintings, which frequently feature explicit fragments of copulating couples, Tricky still contains barely discernable glimmers of a mouth, an eye, and the ears of a rabbit in the whirlwind of earthy and fleshy hues sweeping up the canvas.
Tricky forms part of a body of work that marks a significant development in Brown's oeuvre, setting her amorphous recollections of sexual fantasies and physical sensations into a pictorial space inspired by the pastoral scenes of Impressionist and Old Master painters. Although detail is almost completely subordinated to an allover abstract effect, the mass of surging marks towards the centre of the canvas are set against a horizon line, making it clear the frenzied activity is taking place in a landscape. The confusion of luscious skin tones hints at the hidden secrets of a garden of earthly delights, but any suggestion of form is dissolved into the dark green terrain and luminous turquoise sky. Vague impressions allude to the presence of forms in motion, emerging from the seductive surface of the painting, which contains no visual hierarchy of scale or space, enhancing the sense of hallucinogenic disorientation. Stating that she is more interested in 'where the mind goes when it's trying to make up for what isn't there', Brown buries her imagery in a profusion of painterly excess, knowingly withholding definition to flirt with the viewer's gaze (C. Brown quoted in J. Tumlir, 'The Paintings of Cecily Brown', Cecily Brown, exh. cat., New York, p. 9).