Cy Twombly


The day after Cy Twombly died I went to see the new show in Dulwich, feeling a need to spend time amongst his pictures. They remain alive with his vivid paint marks, his fleshy colour and free floating script, and yet without the author’s living pulse the experience is strangely melancholic. The spectre of his presence haunts the show too, in the largely inaudible and soft focussed figure caught on film by Tacita Dean.

Who was he, this very private man with a famous name? And what was it about his work that so got under the skin? This cryptic calligrapher with his loose & easy picture making, his free association, his careless grace: his dreamy languor coupled with bursts of violent energy. The man who used his hands to make paintings that were by turns secretive, sensuous & scatological.

The paintings are, at their best, daringly simple, unpolished and vital, scattered with scrappy marks and cryptic annotations, dirty lumps and carnal gashes, looping lines, cursive script and nervy scratchings. And they are always freighted with oblique references and romantic symbols, suggesting both a lexicon of desire and a yearning for a mythical past. He fashioned his own world from the heat & light of Rome and Naples, fusing the energy of the new world with the antiquity of the old, an arcadia populated with ghosts - of Eros, Venus, Pan, Adonis, Bacchus, Dionysus, Apollo - that whisper across time to our collective memory. Twombly has left the stage but his name continues to float across those luminous fields of canvas.

Cy Twombly 1928-2011


Twombly & Poussin:Arcadian painters, Dulwich Picture Gallery, until 25 September 2011