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Cecily Brown Interview: Completely unnoticed

“The telephone is obviously the death of society and culture.” Using her powerful painting “Where, When, How often and with Whom” as a starting point, the influential British-born painter Cecily Brown discusses here how the sense of fragmentation in her work reflects her perception of our world today.

“I never think of painting as a cathartic thing, but I definitely think it’s a way of processing things.” Brown feels that one of the reasons she became a painter is to respond to the things she sees, and she attributes the sense of fragmentation that pervades her work to having lived in New York for 25 years: “The experience of living in a very busy city inevitably feeds into how I see and understand things.” Her paintings are created by drawing in part on things lying around her in the studio, and she feels that these many different images feed directly and indirectly into her work. The central image in her painting “Where, When, How often and with Whom” is based on a disturbing news photograph of a Muslim woman on the beach in Nice in 2016 being forced to remove her burkini (a swimming costume that conforms to Islamic rules of female modesty) by four policewomen: “It’s just a very violent image and seems very eloquent about our times.” She also feels that the many bystanders are part of what makes the photos so disturbing: “These white tourists are all just sitting around watching…. they appear to be complicit participants.” Voyeurism, Brown continues, has always been a big part of her work, where there is almost always an observing figure. Continuing, Brown adds that the figures in her painting can be seen to be unaware of each other, even though they are in the same physical space. She believes this is also the case in our world, where many people are so caught up in their phones that they hardly notice each other: “One of the incredibly sad things about our time is how isolated people are.”

Cecily Brown (*1969) is a British painter. Brown creates vivid, atmospheric depictions of fragmented bodies, often in erotic positions amid waves of colour and movement. This has drawn many comparisons with painters such as Francis Bacon and Francisco Goya, and she is also considered one of the central figures in the revival of painting since the turn of the century. Brown has exhibited widely, including at the Saatchi Gallery in London and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Solo exhibitions have also been held at prominent venues such as the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, New York and London, Contemporary Fine Arts in Berlin and the Kunsthalle in Mannheim, Germany. She lives and works in New York City.

Cecily Brown was interviewed in November 2018 at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark, in connection with the exhibition “Where, When, How often and with Whom” by Marc-Christoph Wagner. In the video, Brown discusses her triptych painting “Where, When, How often and with Whom” (2017).

Camera: Klaus Elmer 
Edited by: Klaus Elmer 
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner 
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 201

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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