Wednesday, July 6, 2011

'Hypnotic Scribbles and Abstract Allusions'

Sometimes it's pretty hard to make sense of modernist painters.

A wonderful essay in The Economist takes a look at Cy Twombly's work, a post-Abstract Expressionist who passed away recently at the age of 83.

His work can "be difficult, full of scratches and phalluses, filth and the occasional lofty classical allusion. His mix of subversive vulgarity and grand ideas earned him zealous followers and not a few detractors. Indeed it is this divisiveness—this singular ability to excite—that has helped to secure his place as one of America's most important postwar painters. But little of this attention seemed to affect the man, who was always something of a loner. He had long traded America for Rome, where he could paint in peace and read his Rilke, far away from the noise of the art world."

The essay looks at a hand full of his creations included the image here Hero and Leander 1 which is a "welter of dark greens, reds and blacks. This great Hokusai wave is a tsunami of passion, not just a natural phenomenon. What the rest of the triptych records might be the period after some great cataclysm. The violence passes, leaving only a dark mutter of paint sinking like treacle, and finally a huge rippling surface. These are not recordings of violence, but meditations on its aftermath and its creative power."

The writer suggests that Twombly's paintings represent the creative burst of a fading genre: "...He is a painter towards the end of painting’s history."