Cy Twombly: A writer’s painter

Photo couresty of Gagosian Gallery

“My line is childlike not childish. It is very difficult to fake…to get that quality you need to project yourself into the child’s line. It has to be felt”.

One might protest that an infant could compose a drawing not unlike that of Edward Parker “Cy” Twombly, Jr.  – the American painter, sculptor and photographer. However when one allows themselves the time to gaze a little deeper it becomes quite obvious that there exists a finesse in the way the composition and harmonization of a personal set of rules employs a glorious blend of intellectual sophistication and emotional breadth. Widely regarded as one of the most acclaimed painters from the late 20th and early 21st century, it is perhaps the enigmatic sense of the human experience that sets Twombly apart from any other artist. 

Photo couresty of Gagosian Gallery

Photo couresty of Gagosian Gallery

 His iconic paintings and prints often grand in scale, consist of scribbles and looping gestural marks on raw canvas infused with an unrivaled frenetic energy. The intrigue of Twombly’s work lies perhaps in the balance between a keen interest in Roman and Greek mythology and the fascination of doodling – wielding a palette of mainly gray, tan and off-white colours his blackboard chalk drawings and an unsophisticated form of graffiti render gestures that flitter effortlessly between writing and painting. One could deem Twombly as being the writer’s painter, himself an avid reader who procured a body of inspiration from poetry, mythology and classical history, his references ranging from Goethe and Homer to 13th century Persian poet and mystic Jalâl ad-Dîn Muhammed Rûmî.

It just might be these that lend to the distinctive approach to painting and sculpture Twombly adopted, eluding precise affiliation with the prevailing movements of the twentieth century. Often described as being literary, Twombly tiptoes the threshold between word and image, which divulges themes alluding to the past, to myth and to the authors he so deeply admired.This unyielding borderline between written word and image is highly sensual and subtle narratives linger beneath the surface of the canvases leaving the viewer with a sense of longing

“His handwriting is poetry, reportage, furtive gesture, sexual release, automatic writing, self-affirmation, self-abnegation too… Twombly’s writing has neither syntax nor logic, but quivers with life, Its murmur penetrating to the very depths of things.” – Pierre Restany

A retrospective of Cy Twombly is currently on show at the Centre Pompidou. Unprecedented in its scope, this exhibition offers an unequalled opportunity to witness an outstanding body of work from both private and public collections. The retrospective brings to light the series and cycles in which Twombly reinvented history painting which is both intricate and highly stimulating.