THERE’S NOWHERE TO SIT
Eyesore fitted comfortably within the modernistic canon and went easily there into rigor mortis. Loath to get caught in this misshapen bubble, dexterity withdrew into its own potentiality, western thought became a square devoid of clearcut imports, moneyed elites armour-plated themselves behind philanthropy screens.
Unguilty housekeepers put faint artware out with the recyclables. Batoni’s Minerva clasps in her fingers the wings of a butterfly without cracking at all their membrane: the hand of the museums’ darlings are today compelled to fit in with the strict, crampy brief of deforming first and denying itself the craft second. Many bewildered walkers about our universal village think anger with their death is a licence to go wild and destroy what would outlive, but it takes a fiendish strenght to get it thoroughly and disruptively.
Cy Twombly came of age at the tail end of the western judgement and didn’t care about painting what he saw within foreground or in the background. He didn’t care even about honouring the eternity rate of 2.1 children per household. What ought he to have known about species and individual craftmanship that he didn’t when he was a young man with mighty seed and powerful hands? That slack sophism – Je n’ai pas mon enfant, je suis mon enfant - Lévinas soothes the anxiety of a sterile age with? Would twentieth-century art have been less fatuous and unfounded without this babyish being content with descentless acts and out of ancestry?
Matisse comes back a baby when Tériade fondles his senile affluence by giving him scissors to trifle with gaudy paper cut-outs. It is a jazz without negro truth, a jazz disbeaten so much that pale winterers in South France are talkatively fond of it. Later in western wallowing in puerility, Americans would adopt the most un-Waspy poses for looking as affable and naive as raw natives and slaves freed with shining condescension: a painting rolling in its untidiness would relieve painters of hunting for gods handsomeness, for continual improvement of technique, inventory, eye fierceness, scorn of stated settings.
Pietro Pittore of Saint-Omer let formerly go to grief the simulacra deorum and played an enbittered man in front of the disenchantment: nil mihi quippe boni confert ornatus eorum? [ what does it come to my benefit from their good appearance? ] Money-to-be is the implied most important factor in art we talk about. Appearance and explaining are in there, too, but money-to-be – across pictures and the speech that ties their together – is what fires us up and sticks in our cauldron of convictions the longest.
Ornatus can yet give paintings sensible presence and warm anecdotage. Appearances of true things can make what lives behind the eye, what non-representational swelling with words is unable to. Nevertheless, money-to-be moves mental foresight behind an eye fed up with Grecian noses, snowy rosinesses, sublime events both in history and on poets moon: Domenico Ghirlandaio had had enough of Grecian profiles as well, and gave his old man a grandly aberrant nose, a galaxy of pathological berries, the triumph of organic and its liberty in varying over aesthetics with its iron corsets.
Some experimenters have been glad to cut off the heraldry of beauty which western canon – and mere habit of improving as well – had grown for vying with divineness, and – some think – after the clearest-eyed portraitist had given us the carnal glory of rhinophyma, it was only fair to restrain painting from utter sight by allowing it to withdraw into irrelative signs. Sure, eye can be morbid in its objectivity, but if sense and visual correlation stay on the sideline, it leaves a sea hole in reason for art too large for any single ambition to fill, any engineering conceit to rear upwards.
If there is an overarching power to this huge sea, it isn’t possessed by Twombly. Though far from having short gestures, he embodies that discreet refusal of any captivating ambition Roland Barthes mentions and which does not assist him in laying bridges. Let us have an unbiased gaze at his Treatise on the Veil : he uses there broader expanse rethoric than he should, and there’s no mainland to reach as the bungled stripes go towards the museum hallowing.
Let us make a lax comparison with a bridge as Karl Evver see it and slides it down. Let us confine ourself to his Il ponte XL [ The bridge XL,
photograph on Fuji paper, run of one and only copy in the size 20,3 centimetres in height, 12,9 in width ]: it owes nothing to pillars and lewdly much to overbearing hurry of motion. Evver doesn’t set an image: he flings us and the train into a restlessness tough to journey through and dazing to live in.
There are a lot, instead, of horizontal conjunction in that Twomblying landscape, designed to suggest a sophisticated extension of the intellect, but unfortunately the treatise becomes any more dull with widening. If Twombly is pre-eminent in seizing the chaos, gaiety and unfocussed energy of Italian Life - so Richard Dorment states successfully and concisely the loftiness of the artist in his thirthies in the Sixties’ laddered Italy – and usually in getting close to zero inside his drawing and colouring, he’s likewise unfit for catching a focussed might, the order potentiality in travertine, the sharp western beauty before any self-canonising by bargaining for his every scratch.
back to homepage