The Korea Herald


Cecily Brown at Gladstone Gallery in Seoul shows artist's fight against herself

By Park Yuna

Published : April 30, 2024 - 19:13

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Cecily Brown's exhibition, Cecily Brown's exhibition, "Nana and Other Stories," housed at the Gladstone Gallery in Seoul, includes new paintings "Nana"(left) and "The Return of Sweetie." (Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery)

Leading contemporary artist Cecily Brown continuously evolves her artistic world through a battle against her desire.

Her solo exhibition at the Gladstone Gallery in Seoul, “Nana and Other Stories,” is the extension of her artistic exploration to the previous exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York last year titled “Death and the Maid” which encompassed her 25-year artistic career.

Brown unveiled seven paintings in Seoul newly created over the past two years, including the 2.1-meter painting “Nana,” the title intentionally identical to Edouard Manet’s controversial painting that depicts a courtesan with her awaiting client created in 1877.

Cecily Brown (Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery) Cecily Brown (Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery)

The painting “Nana” has evolved from her previous painting, “No You for Me,” which she worked on in 2013 and was shown at the Met, transforming the original loosely suggestive and vigorously painted figure into an identifiably expressive and contoured woman.

“I never think of myself as an abstract artist really,” Brown told reporters Thursday at the galley ahead of the exhibition's opening. “I always feel that there is a figurative or figure base -- and that there is always something recognizable in the work even when it is at its most abstract.”

“My ambition has always been to make a work that catches your attention and catches your eye, but then it is not an easy quick read that it reveals itself slowly over time and that the more you look, the more you are going to get out of it,” she said.

An installation view of Cecily Brown's exhibition An installation view of Cecily Brown's exhibition "Nana and Other Stories" at Gladstone Gallery in Seoul (Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery)

Brown said she watches out for going too far in one direction -- whether in her painting style or emotions -- such as when her paintings become too abstract, she gets herself working in a more figurative direction.

“You don’t see it quite clearly immediately, but for me, this is the clearest figure I have done very well with the face which is very clear,” she said of her recent painting “Nana.”

“What I am always trying to do is to surprise myself as well as the viewer but to keep myself on my toes and try not to repeat myself too much," she said.

"Lavender's Blue" by Cecily Brown (Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery)

Brown challenged herself to use another method for some works at Seoul exhibition, the artist said. She picked up rollers to apply the paint, throwing away old bushes, as seen at the painting "Lavender's Blue" on the second floor of the gallery.

In the painting, Brown sources German-born British painter Walter Richard Sickert’s reenvisioned nudes of the early 20th century. Brisk, wide-reaching strokes of rollers, simultaneously apply and blur pastel tones of blues and purples, contrasting the painterly gestural strokes of the fleshy peach form.

"You will notice, if you're familiar with my work, there's a different surface in some of these paintings. I always try to change the size, scale, color and the subject," she said. " I realized, for the Met show, I never changed my brushes, so I've been really challenging myself to throw away my old brushes."

The exhibition runs through June 8.