Blackpaint 284


Cy Twombly and Poussin at Dulwich

Went round this last Sunday – then came news of Twombly’s death.  The obits always cast a faint sanctimonious glow over the dead; luckily, I wrote notes before the news, so can avoid the solemnity.

As always now, I try to avoid reading anything on the wall at an exhibition, or booklets, until I’ve had a good look at the art – so all I really got was that he used a lot of classical references (knew that already) as did Poussin, and presumably that provides the link.  They certainly don’t look much like each other, not even colours or forms.

The first room had a couple of large canvases in odd shapes, as if a giant ace of clubs were stuck onto the usual rectangle.  I recall a great, dark, grey-blue-green tumbling from top left to bottom right, with a froth of white against a creamy pink haze – like a huge ocean wave crashing down.

In the corridor, large rectangular canvases, some covered with Twombly scribbles and swirls in pencil, or pastel crayon, some with the white dribbles like semen, rough sketches of penises among other dubious items and thick clots of paint splashed on to harden; lines of poetry or names scrawled on canvases.

In the end room, the famous Four Seasons, in raspberry, acidic yellow, Prussian Blue, dark green.  One has Autumn scrawled on it, but they all looked like summer to me.  The smears and trickles and smashes of colour suggested Joan Mitchell a little to me.

The best works for me were two smaller ones in the corridor; Venus and Adonis, and Bacchanalia.  The first had a pad of pink that reminded me of the Osborne bum nose. The second was a rolling scrawl of black, grey and brown pastel like a brown wave rolling in, or maybe a tangle of wire.  Full of movement, lovely picture.  Both of these had pictures stuck to the top part of   canvas; the first an illustration of a rhubarb leaf (!) from an old book, the second a classical engraving of a number of figures.  When I skimmed through the book of the exhibition, I found that Twombly had done four or five of these Bacchanalias, for different months from March to November (the one on show).  They looked pretty similar to me.

As for the Poussins – two types; several dark, brownish, varnished look, like Sickert’s ancestor, the others the sort more familiar to me – the brighter colours, the big cast of parading or dancing characters, the reddish tinge of the undercoat.  The compositions are great, the figures wonderful – a Veronese back in one – but the faces crude.  An inappropriately serene Goliath’s head being carried on a stick like a huge toffee apple; a herm with a red face, which the wall labels (read after) linked to the Twombly rhubarb leaf, and which I thought was pushing it a bit.

So it’s great, if not huge.  Twombly’s pictures demanded a new way of looking that now is part of the orthodoxy, to go with Pollock’s spiralling drips, Rothko’s arches and all the others – we have Twombly’s scribbles too.

Tarkovsky

The boxed set is now out.  I’ve only managed Ivan’s Childhood so far – black and white, pretty conventional WW2 story line, but a couple of striking dream sequences and some great night time shots in the marshes (Pripet Marshes?) with flares arcing in the sky and dropping into the water.  Started watching, resigned to ploughing through a boring early work, but fairly gripped by the end.

Blackpaint

07.07.11

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