Cy Twombly’s work is notoriously hard to decipher. He was a gestural expressionist, enabling mark-making tools and primary pigments to reveal their characters with his freehand strokes.
As an artist myself I can tell you he makes it look too easy, the embodiment of “a child could do that” because it’s very obvious a child couldn’t. And as Twombly himself said, his work is not childISH, it is childLIKE. He, like Picasso before him, sought this kindergarten energy as high art.
How fresh then to be able to view some more figurative work from his peak in the 1970’s. Right. Up. Close. I even had the chance to animate them. This is Natural History. Part 1 is Mushrooms and Part 2 Some trees of Italy. Figurative perhaps, but all his trademark automatic gestures are here in mixed media. Elementary sums and notations pepper the canvases whilst tracing paper further evokes the classroom along with his ubiquitous blackboard writing.
Photographs and technical drawings enhance the didactic vision. But these plants have inspired him, and the organic muse breaks through with crayon crumbling force. I’m not sure I took much away in the form of scientific knowledge, but this pseudo-botanical aesthetic left me feeling nature, as opposed to knowing it, which in many ways is just as important.
Cy Twombly – Natural History runs from 26th April to 15 June 2019 at Bastian, 8 Davies Street, London W1K 3DW Tues – Sats 10am to 6pm. Admission is free.