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  • Writer's picturematilde tomat

a/ cy twombly

Well, I knew about him before buying The Essential Cy Twombly*. And then I got lost in it.

As a quick reference: this is the official website of the foundation in his name, and this is the link to the book on Amazon.  From the SF MOMA page: “The Essential Cy Twombly, edited by Twombly’s longtime collaborator Nicola Del Roscio, is the ultimate overview of his work, presenting the most important paintings and cycles of paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs from Twombly’s diverse oeuvre.”

And this is what he does:

cy t 03

I feel I found someone whose practice, research, work, courage and not botheressness inspires and validates my strife, my journey, my experimenting. And my marks.


He is considered an abstract expressionist but at the same time, he is not really interested in belonging to a group, in being labelled anything: the epitome of being very free, of not feeling solemn in the belonging to a particular conceptual group. We can see that he is somehow minimalist from his simple rectangularities and also how he transformed them.  One thing that I have noticed is how while my hand is comfortable in the flowing, he uses a lot of short and sharp lines. So I tried: he used only a 4H so I got one and tried to use my hand in different ways, making different marks. I felt comfortable in exploring and adding to my works erratic marks which I have explored, borrowed, and then transformed. 


We are both connected by and to the history of early human marks, the gravures, the primordial essence: it feels like reading the biography of the artist I want to be and who I could potentially be, and somehow I am already becoming. This, whatever this is, has already been done: by him. And I now feel entitled to do it too, my own way.


I could describe my work with exactly the same words used to describe his: with scratches, incisions, use of calligraphy, scribbles, doodles, scrawls, ideas of petroglyphs with their illusions and allusions, and looping free-hand marks, bricolage-rummaging He used pictograms, ideograms, tentacles, ovoid, swarming pictures, tits and dicks – that’s not me, though, Borrowing from the book: against the rectangular patriarchal structure, formal, of a window, a display of the muse, and artistic veritas overlooking and judging, with the baggage of theories and approaches. Strict linearity vs mellifluous unpredictable lines and asperities, collages of papers, proto-calligraphy which turn musical, loops, coils, and spirals, mysterious and suggestive moments, loose traces.

And the use of house paint! On walls! That’s me all over…


Part of me is mesmerised that a lot of the pieces and experimenting I did, were before I knew of him. A transmigration of the soul?! He died on a Tuesday, on the 5th of July 2011: what was I doing that day? Transmutation > turned into blooming and explosion of life!

He used to draw blind, at times (I did, too and I am also using my non-dominant hand or both at the same time) but moreover, I am struck by another parallel, really to the point of being unbelievable: he worked as an army cryptologist. My dad and I spent innumerable hours making cyphers since he was in the army, and “in under places” in the early ’80s. We played with numbers, ancient codes, hidden messages, formulas, crypto-writing.


All of those signs are present in my work, now. As are phonetic alphabets, and symbols borrowed from maths, physics, and glottology, and technical drawing/engineering.  What unites us is this expressive pantheism and the creation of a personal mythology. Our Orphic arcadia: inscriptions, the ruins of antiquity, using shorthand, thinking (in his case) of the different hands of the gods and goddess: how would Apollo draw, how would Demeter? What’s their energy? I am thinking Emerson and the consolation of metamorphosis, how anger and violence are being morphed and transformed in the growth of nature. 


Now, what can I learn? Can I try some new scribbling with those Chinese pencils I bought? Maybe on paper, and see what comes out? Also, I could try some rice paper (or newspaper?!) torn in small pieces, and then “partially glued with paint” on paper? I could try adding whirling, looping, maybe some more discreet marks, or a sexy smear (or sensual? Could I try smearing? I never tried that before, how would that feel?).

You can see the evolution of his work, and how he changed and how his art changed and grew: an infinite self-alteration. Am I changing too? Of course, but at what rate? Can I stop and solidify? If his alter ego was Proteus: which one is mine? And, do I need one? He transformed even with the use of colours: from natural history to epic: look how he used the same colours as the Renaissance: scarlets, crimson, golds, but in a completely different and modern suggestive expression. 

I am thinking of his thoughts on theoretical encapsulating and on the pretentionalism of conceptualised art: where is the freedom if you decide to abide by a theory? If you look for a label?

In this, he becomes my alter ego: a sense of perfection and freedom personified.

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*Del Roscio, N. (2014) The essential Cy Twombly. London: Thames and Hudson

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