Cy Twombly – Academy

Cy Twombly - Academy


In the only written statement Mr. Twombly ever made about his work, a short essay in an Italian art journal in 1957, he tried to make clear that his intentions were not subversive but elementally human. Each line he made, he said, was “the actual experience” of making the line, adding: “It does not illustrate. It is the sensation of its own realization.” Years later, he described this more plainly. “It’s more like I’m having an experience than making a picture,” he said.

Twombly titled this piece Academy,  apparently ironically, because it didn’t resemble anything which he would have been taught to make at art school.  I find this particularly interesting, as 60 years later this is exactly the type of thing which I’m being taught or encouraged to do at art school.  I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve found it hard to let go of the superficial notion that a drawing can’t be “good” without being representative of something.  I’m constantly worried about the criticism “my kid could do that.”  However, I’m more often praised by tutors for work which I consider to be some of the worst-looking drawing’s I’ve done, mostly that which is the kind of automatic scribbling, and then discouraged from drawing where I try to copy and represent something, and I suspect that the opposite was true of Twombly’s time at art school.

I’ve been interested in looking at drawing as a cathartic process, as part of everyday life.  Twombly seemed to use drawing in this way, and he described how after completing a painting he’d “usually have to go to bed for a couple of days”, as if the painting now existed, but it was perhaps more there than he then was.  I think that alone validates Twombly’s work and defeats my ideas that work is only valuable when I’ve been able to accurately reproduce something.  I could spend hours trying to draw something precisely how it looks in real life, but it seems far more vacuous now than work like Twombly’s which is the product of genuine creative impulses.


One thought on “Cy Twombly – Academy

  1. Those lines are hypnotic but they stay ‘mute’ in a powerful way–I can’t get beyond them or start to get sense out of them–which is the point, the anti-narrative of them. But this example makes me reflect on the drawing that Catriona posted a day or so ago by Claude Heath, ‘Ben Nevis’–again it is a inchoate mass of lines made in a similar way, but I feel that ‘sense’ does lurk or echo in that mark making because of the referent, unlike here in the Twombley drawing.

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