Cecily Brown's frenetically layered paintings seethe with an aesthetic of excess. Engrossed with the physical properties of paint, Brown aims to induce the sensual process of image making in the viewer, creating disorientating yet seductive images, that do not materialise into a unified reality, but remain in a state of flux. Untitled of 1997 forms part of an early series of work in which the motif of the rabbit is employed as a figurative pretext for an exploration of the ambiguities and tensions of painting. Used in place of the human figure, so as to avoid its endless associations, Brown's riotous rabbits are barely held in view, jostling and dissolving amidst a painterly dissolution of form.
Brown draws from a number of sources, from Rubens to Poussin, comic books to pornography. She also refers to the late 1940s as the richest period of painting in the 20th century, where representation and abstraction held a dramatic tension between them. In uniting these diverse influences, Brown plays with the medium's ability to montage imagery and narrative, asserting the painter's power to veil and unveil at will. Conscious of the viewer's potentially voyeuristic pleasure in unravelling this process, Brown fragments forms in a hallucinatory sequence of beguiling, if elusive, imagery. The voluptuous energy of the gambolling bunnies in Untitled, pre-empts the human couplings that would soon appear in her paintings, punning on the promiscuity of her visual imagery and pushing the limits of pictorial space:
'I was using bunnies more or less as human surrogates. As they progressed they were becoming more and more human - especially the genitals - and I realised that I couldn't avoid the issue of painting the human figure any longer. While the bunnies had been in somewhat 'real' space, I needed a new way to emphasize the fact that this was an invented space. Obviously, the bunnies existed in a fantasy land - as soon as humans were involved, it seemed the only way to approach it was to start messing with scale and space much more. It wasn't so much the use of sexual imagery that created a release, it was the attempt to bend and twist pictorial space. I wanted to get the figure off the ground, as in the earth, and integrate it more with the flat ground of the picture. That was probably when I first started trying to use ambiguous space, one that defied gravity. I wanted it to be impossible for the viewer to know where they stood in relation to the action' (Brown cited in S. Cotter, 'Seeing Double', Cecily Brown: Paintings, exh. cat., Modern Art Oxford, 2005, p. 41).