Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My hero / Cy Twombly

My hero Cy Twombly 

by Edmund de Waal

'Twombly's sense of the erased, the partial, the lost and the fragmentary makes complete sense to me'
Cy Twombly
Cy Twombly, the 'great survivor of the heroic age of American painting'.
Photograph: David Lees/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image
Cy Twombly is a painter of thinking aloud, of thoughts checked and then resumed, hesitancies and the rush of ideas. Twombly, now 82, is the great survivor of the heroic age of American painting, the generation of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Jackson Pollock, who upended what was expected in contemporary art. Somehow he has managed to continue to create profoundly affecting work without histrionics or hubris.
Twombly is known for his scribbles, great looping calligraphies of white on black, of white on white – or, in the more recent Bacchus series, swoops of carmine three metres high. His paintings are a mass of marks, erasures and words. Phrases come and go, lines are repeated until they become incantatory. Sometimes you read a fragmentary part of a poem, or an allusion to a classical text, only for it to be crossed out. There are puns and odd misspellings: erudition giving way to doodling at the back of the class. And this is what I love: the way that there is slippage between an intended epic expression and a failure to finish.In his work he has both the shopping list and the great list of ships sent to attack Troy.

Untitled, 1970
by Cy Twombly
Twombly's sense of the erased, the partial, the lost and the fragmentary makes complete sense to me. In the recent Tate retrospective there was a room that showed the series Nini's Paintings, made after the sudden death of the wife of his Italian gallerist. Landscapes of writing: a glacial blue and white version next to another of an umbrous brown. And standing in front of them they seemed one of the most moving reactions to loss possible: the way that in mourning we go back again and again to a memory, that we cannot close down the need to return.
He has just completed a ceiling for the Louvre. Above a gallery of classical statues hangs a fierce Mediterranean blue sky in which the planets glow and the names of Greek sculptors are inscribed. It is beautiful and it is surprising. That is enough.

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