Reading Cy Twombly: Poetry in Paint


Reading Cy Twombly

By Mary Jacobus

September 16, 2016
ARTS & CULTURE
These images, selected from my book Reading Cy Twombly: Poetry in Paint, indicate the range and provocation of Cy Twombly’s works on canvas and paper, pointing especially to his inventive use of literary quotation and allusion throughout his long career and his relation to poetry as an inspiration for his art.

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Twombly’s working copy of a paperback translation of Three Secret Poems, by the twentieth-century Greek poet George Seferis, shows his hands-on approach to quotation and revision as well as paint stains from his work in progress. A number of marked passages reappear in Twombly’s paintings of the mid-1990s, notably in Quattro Stagioni (1993–94) and Say Goodbye, Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor (finally completed in 1994).

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One of a sequence of related drawings, Venus and Adonis (1978) wittily alludes to Shakespeare’s poem of the same title. Along with a series of cleft heart-shaped (buttock-shaped?) and phallic forms poised in suggestive proximity, each drawing contains a flower-like scribble and a foldout book. Perhaps Twombly is alluding to the “flowers” of poetry as well as to Venus’s rival, the boar who gores Adonis with his amorous tusk.

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Il Parnasso (1964) riffs on Raphael’s Renaissance fresco in the papal Stanza della Segnatura. Twombly responds in his own fashion to the auratic cultural icons of Rome, drawing attention to the missing role of painting in the representation of learning and culture. The play of line replaces the playing of Apollo’s lyre at the apex of Raphael’s design. Signing himself in the shuttered rectangular window around which Raphael’s fresco arches, Twombly draws attention to the flat surface of the “wail” or support.

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The early series of works on paper Poems to the Sea (1959) shows Twombly’s use of horizon line, wave signs, and quasi-writing, along with thick creamy paint, to eroticize the abstract play of repetition. In a series that makes reference to Sappho, Twombly also seems to be alluding to the typographical experiment of Mallarmé’s shipwreck poem, Un Coup de Dés, as a sequence of rhythmic marks and blanks. Non-referential signs tussle with the impulse to “read” and “write,” as if words and thoughts were about to be born from the waters of the Mediterranean.

 

 

 

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Synopsis of a Battle (1968) takes Twombly’s blackboard paintings of the late 1960s in the direction of the era’s obsession with space travel, alluding to the blackboard calculations of NASA scientists as well as his own fascination with weightlessness. Abstruse mathematical formulas and recurrent fan shapes suggest orbiting gyrations, rather than battle formations. Cyanotype blueprints for gravity-defying Gemini and Apollo spacecraft were widely available at the time. Here, Twombly designs his own prototype.

 

 

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Twombly’s paired paintings, Bacchus Psilax and Bacchus Mainomenos (2004) show the winged Bacchus morphing into his identical twin, the raging mad god who unleashes a title of blood. Painted during the bloodiest years of the Iraq occupation, when the first and second Battles of Fallujah brought the heaviest urban fighting since the Vietnam War, the Bacchus series has been linked to the fury of Achilles’s twelve-day brutalization of Hector’s body, towed around the grave mount of Patroclus. Twombly’s work elsewhere refers to the destruction of Sumerian cultural heritage.

 

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CY TWOMBLY, HERO AND LEANDRO, PART II, 1981–84. OIL-BASED HOUSE PAINT, OIL PAINT (PAINT STICK) ON CANVAS, 61 3⁄8″ × 80 1⁄2″. © CY TWOMBLY FOUNDATION. PHOTO COURTESY KARSTEN GREVE, ST. MORITZ.

The middle painting from Twombly’s sequence, Hero and Leandro (1981–84), suggests his interest in the whiteout—an obliteration that is also a kind of memory. As the sea washes through the story of Leandro’s drowning, the liquidity of water and paint eradicate the visible. Drawing on another Mediterranean narrative, Twombly combines his lifelong fascination with the sea with the erasure of a forgotten name, hidden in the darkness at lower right—not Leandro’s, but Hero’s.

 

 

 

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CY TWOMBLY, UNTITLED (TO SAPPHO), 1976, OIL, WAX CRAYON ON DRAWING CARDBOARD, 59″ × 53 1⁄4″. © CY TWOMBLY FOUNDATION. COURTESY ARCHIVES FONDAZIONE NICOLA DEL ROSCIO.

Twombly’s “homage” to Sappho in Untitled (To Sappho) (1976) creates an erotic visual poem out of Sappho’s fragmentary epithalamium, using purple (the mark of consummation and death) both to celebrate and to mourn Hyacinthus’s death and transformation into a flower. The juxtaposition of paint and poetry marks the conjunction of the pastoral strain and the pastoral “stain”—painting and sexuality. Twombly’s relation to pastoral suggests, not so much nostalgia as the modern artist’s inextricable entanglement with sociality.

 

 

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CY TWOMBLY, ORPHEUS, 1975, COLLAGE: OIL PAINT, COLOR PENCIL, SCOTCH TAPE ON PAPER, 55 1⁄2″ × 39 3⁄8″. © CY TWOMBLY FOUNDATION. COURTESY ARCHIVES FONDAZIONE NICOLA DEL ROSCIO. PHOTO: MIMMO CAPONE

Twombly’s recurrent preoccupation with Rilke’s Orpheus sonnets emerges in numerous paintings, drawings, and sculptures. His collage Orpheus (1975) quotes from Rilke’s “Be in advance of all parting” (“be a ringing glass that shivers even as it rings”), beneath a repeated broken line that seems to record a break in the fabric of life. Here, an oblique line has its start in the faint pink of erotic passion. Spare and epitaphic, the broken ascent echoes Rilke’s emphasis on “the realm of decline” inhabited by the poet.

This article originally appeared in the Paris Review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kenryo Hara: Performance by Calligraphy


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This performance piece by Japanese artist Kenryo Hara combines an ocean of kodai moji calligraphy with the acting out of a dramatic narrative. These photos show the unfolding drama that erupts  from the thrashing marks of an exuberant  calligraphy brush. Loaded with ink  and an emerging storyline, the brush of Kenryo becomes the instrument of magestic manifestation for the telling of an expressive and dramatic unfolding.

Jan Kirstein

Click to enlarge

 

 

Butoh Dance Music Music: 吉本大輔 Dai Sekiguchi engraved ink bok-Koku: Hara Hyun 翏 Kenryo Hara

On the stage, the chief priest of hongaku-Ji Temple, the chief priest of hongaku-Ji Temple, was given support for many people. Thanks from the heart,!☆☆☆
Mr. Kaoru Cecilia Saito ☆ Chako Sawada Hitomi Fukao ☆’s ☆ Mr. Rokka Ando ☆ Sakura Nakagawa Hiro Sugiyama ☆’s ☆ Midori Katoh ☆ Mr. Mr. Hiromi Yamazaki ☆ Tai Kaori-San ☆ Mr. Rie Miyagawa ☆ Masanao Showjiki Sugiyama’s ☆ Day Junko Kasahara ☆… amazing photos on them all!  Thank you so much!!!

 

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Encouraging the young

 

 

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KENRYO HARA : Biography

Born on August 15th 1955 in Mie- Prefecture located in Honshu a region in central Japan.
In September of 2000 Kenryo joined the Kikkou-kai.
The Kikkou-kai studies the art of Kodaimoji under Koho Kato master who is one of the most respected and revered calligraphy artist of this form of Kodaimoji.
Kodaimoji- (Kodai: meaning “ancient” and Moji: meaning “character”) is the most ancient form of calligraphy known in China.
Kikkou-kai has adapted this ancient tradition of Kodaimoji into a new form of art and performance.
Every January The Ueno Royal Museum in Ueno hosts the Kikkouten exhibit. From 2001 Kenryo has continuously shown his work with this annual event.

 


ANCIENT JAPANESE SCRIPT AND CALLIGRAPHY

Kodai moji 古代文字 literally translates to “ancient characters”. Under the apprenticeship of renowned ancient character calligrapher Koho Kato since 2000, Japanese script and calligrapher Ten-You puts an artistic spin on traditional characters, transforming them into art that expounds the beauty and meaning of nature and life. She held her first overseas exhibition in New Zealand and became independent in 2007 while founding the Kodai Moji Artist Group, Ten-You Gumi. Since then, she has expanded her work and events internationally at New York, San Francisco, Paris and Barcelona, which also include awareness efforts for the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.
The contemporary Japanese language uses 3 scripts: Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana. Hiragana and Katakana, collectively known as Kana, are syllabic scripts derived from through man’yogana 万葉仮名, or phonetic sounds of kanji 漢字. The latter is commonly used as transliterations for gairaigo 外来語, or loans words from other languages in a modern Japanese context. Kanji is a logographic script and the oldest of the three, originating from ancient Chinese characters. Kanji was first introduced to Japan in the 1st century. Prior to that, there was no written form of the Japanese language. Literacy only began to gain traction in the 5th century, where texts were comprised solely of Chinese characters.

Ancient Chinese characters or hanzi 漢字 are known to have been first recorded around 1000 to 1500 BC, inscribed on tortoise plastrons and ox scapulae for divination uses through heating and interpreting the crack patterns. These oracle bones documented the communications between the heavens and the king of the Shang dynasty in China. The characters are a mix of hieroglyphic elements of nature and the cycle of life as well as abstract symbols. The approximated 85000 and 50000 characters recognized in Chinese and Japanese dictionaries respectively are derived from the incompletely identified set of 4000 hanzi. This information comes from the website: http://rgnn.org/2015/12/27/ancient-japanese-script-and-calligraphy-with-kodai-moji-artist-ten-you/

 

 

Collector’s Choice: Janet Jones


 

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“Rather than collecting beautiful materials for collage and mixed media, I look for those that have had a troubled past.

 

 

I want to draw attention to the innate beauty of the stains, foxing and velvety patina of old book pages and the grime and grunge of “road kill” papers rescued from the street. Sometimes these found papers are finished pieces with very little intervention on my part, and in other cases I distress papers by soaking, laminating, staining, scorching and sanding to give them still more history.

 

 

I take pleasure in giving these humble materials the loving presentation they deserve.”

 

Janet Jones, artist

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