‘I want there to be a human presence without having to depict it in full’ – Cecily Brown
Located mid way on the short stroll between two of St James’ art heavyweights – Christies, King Street and White Cube, Masons Yard – are the two spaces of Thomas Dane Gallery. It is always well worth dropping by to see the latest exhibition and with artists like Walead Beshty, Michael Landy, Hurvin Anderson and Steve McQueen on the roster, there is a good chance you will find something special.
Showing for the first time at the gallery, we recently viewed Madrepora by the wonderful Cecily Brown. She has recently jumped ship from Gagosian no less, a move that shows the growing power of Thomas Dane. Brown is, and has been throughout her career, one of the most engaged and distinctive painters of our time. Her preoccupation has always been the Body – in all its various guises and narratives, fleshy shapes and forms appearing from her many layered works.
Brown’s paintings are immersive and her passion is contagious. She reminds us how great it is to look at art unhurriedly: the pleasure of contemplation and examination. Her paintings reveal themselves slowly, almost ‘continuously’.
Brown often talks about ‘Sublimation’, paraphrasing Francis Bacon who craved “the grin without the cat”, the “sensation” without the “boredom of its conveyance”. Something she calls a ‘Breaking-down’ process.
Recently we discover that Brown has been (re)looking at a particular painting, and has fallen in love with it all over again: Degas’ Young Spartans, from 1860, at London’s National Gallery. She brings Degas’ very recognisable, cluster of bodies, postures and composition into some of the work here.
Crowds are indeed very present for example – in the enigmatic Madrepora, 2015. The ghoulish assembly of The Smugglers, 2015, too could have sprung out of a James Ensor painting.
A series of ‘Dark’ paintings are reminiscent of the Spanish Masters and brings together Brown’s taste for the slightly macabre, or forbidden, with more risqué reclining male nudes.
Spanning both spaces of the gallery, the exhibition includes some of works from the past. These are cleverly hung alongside her sketches and allows us to add some history and context to her work. It looks like her star is on the rise.
Cecily Brown – Madrepora runs until 23 July 2016
For more information visit www.thomasdanegallery.com