Cecily Brown's art can be described as an elaborate kind of tease. The London-born New York-based painter explores the slippery boundary between abstraction and figuration, creating seductive images filled with hidden secrets. Painted in 2001, Untitled is an outstanding example of Brown's unique brand of subterfuge. It is an expansive painting that swirls in a dreamlike vision of covert eroticism. Glimpses of undulating bodies slide in and out of view against fractured passages of sky blue and field green. Broad torso-like zones rendered in the fleshiest of pinks mingle with the broken rhythms of countless smaller brushstrokes, making the canvas come alive with pulsating energy. These abstracted referents appear to allude to sexual frolics in the great outdoors or the time-honoured theme of nudes within a landscape, but its subject matter is deliberately buried in a whirlwind of thick, heavily worked hues.
Engrossed with the physical properties of paint, Brown aims to induce the sensual process of image making in the viewer, creating disorientating compositions that do not materialize into a unified reality, but remain in a state of flux. In the present work, Brown marries the sensuality of paint with the sensuality of the body, uniting them in the oily-wet malleability of its voluptuous surface. In doing so, she evokes the classic maxims of two of her greatest artistic heroes: Willem de Kooning's assertion that flesh was the reason that oil paint was invented, and Francis Bacon's paraphrasing of Paul Valéry in 'what modern man wants...is the grin without the cat-the sensation without the boredom of its conveyance' (F. Bacon quoted in J. Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon, London 1964, p. 21).
Brown knows that desire lies in flirtation and that amid her fervent gestural abstraction and painterly elisions, just a suggestion of the human figure is enough to entice and beguile the viewer. Untitled is therefore designed to invite observers to linger more than the few seconds it takes to scan an image. The search for clues in its dissolution of form highlights the main focus of Brown's paintings, where the act of looking is playfully converged with the potentially voyeuristic pleasure elicited by her sexually charged imagery.