Twombly @ Gagosian, Britannia Street


When I started writing about art last year it was after having visited the glorious Cy Twombly and Nicolas Poussin exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery. I had never even heard of Twombly before but I was infatuated with his work and a year on my love affair with his art continues. The Gagosian Gallery has held two exhibitions side by side: eight of his latest paintings alongside a selection of 66 photographs from the 1950’s until his death last year.

The main gallery is host to a series of eight paintings entitled ‘Camino Real.’ This would link to Freud’s ‘royal road’ to the unconscious, a dreamlike state and maybe these are Twombly’s dreams on canvas, a psychological form of art, even a cathartic experience perhaps. This suggests a psychological stress upon the images which are full of energy. Harsh reds and oranges are thickly spread across the canvases against a cool lime green background with excess paint dripping down the canvas. These works are lively and vivacious, one would have no idea they were painted by someone who was reaching the end of their life and are full of much stronger and brighter colours than the works on display at Dulwich last year, if anything they show a new lease of life in the artist’s old age – they are full of vitality.

In the adjacent room however, are the standout images – Twombly’s photographs. I was previously unaware that the artist had any interest in photography and they are just as stunning as his paintings. These lesser known works have never been seen before in the UK and are almost more impressive than his paints as they show the artist’s thought process before he puts paint to canvas.

The photographs mainly comprise natural objects like flowers and forests as well as some more artistic items like classical sculpture. However, despite the familiarity of the objects on the viewer, we are caused to stop – to look and appreciate them in a way we would not have done previously. These images are blurred, they have been zoomed into heavily and cropped at funny angles, the colours are faded from overexposure, yet Twombly has abstracted life the same way he does on canvas and the results are beautiful.

While small, this show is bountiful. It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Twombly’s work, yet I feel like it simply must be seen. As one of the last practitioners of Abstract Expressionism his work is both stunning and intelligent. This certainly mustn’t be missed, if only for the photographs alone.

The show closes in London tomorrow but will travel to New York

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and also writes for After Nyne, Ibraaz and Reorient.

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